Red Knots Endangered, just knot officially

by Lanny McDowell on December 19, 2008

 Here is an excerpt from the American Bird Conservancy’s report about the current status of Endangered Species Listing by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, thanks to Betty Andersen:

Government Review Confirms Red Knot and Other Imperiled Bird Candidates Should Be Listed as Endangered Species

 
 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has released its revised list of species that are candidates for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Designation as a candidate species is not a requirement for listing under the ESA, and FWS can, and regularly does, list animals and plants without first placing them on the Candidate List. As a result, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has released its revised list of species that are candidates for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Designation as a candidate species is not a requirement for listing under the ESA, and FWS can, and regularly does, list animals and plants without first placing them on the Candidate List. As a resultthe Candidate List is regarded by many conservationists as a stall tactic by FWS.

Candidate species are assigned a listing priority from 1 to 12 based on the magnitude of threats they face, the immediacy of the threats, and their taxonomic uniqueness (for example, full species have higher priority than subspecies). The species’ listing priority dictates the relative order in which proposed listing rules are prepared, with the species at greatest risk (listing priority 1 through 3) being proposed first. Significantly, in the 2008 list, FWS determined that the ranking for the Red Knot should be raised from 6 to 3.

The rufa Red Knot, a reddish-brown shorebird slightly larger than an American Robin, migrates annually from Tierra del Fuego to its arctic breeding grounds, stopping to rebuild critical energy reserves by feasting on horseshoe crab eggs in Delaware Bay.

Only 14,800 Red Knots were counted in 2007 at the species’ primary wintering areas, a 15% decline from 2006, and a 75% decline from 1985. The results of several scientific studies have shown that a major reason behind this decline is a fall in the number of available horseshoe crab eggs due to overfishing of the crabs themselves, which are used as bait in conch and eel fisheries. This led FWS to conclude in their candidate review that, “The primary factor threatening the Red Knot is destruction and modification of its habitat, particularly the reduction in key food resources resulting from reductions in horseshoe crabs…”

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has once again confirmed that the Red Knot is increasingly threatened with extinction and deserving of heightened conservation measures, particularly immediate reductions in the commercial harvest of horseshoe crabs, whose eggs comprise the knot’s primary food source,” said Darin Schroeder, American Bird Conservancy’s Vice President of Conservation Advocacy.

The increased priority ranking for the species from 6 to 3 may speed its listing, but this could still be years off. “Too often species languish on the candidate species list and are not afforded the protections of the Endangered Species Act that we know work very well,” said Schroeder. “We urge the incoming administration to expeditiously act to list the species as the scientific research warrants.”

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