Johnson's Mills (Photo by Mike Dembeck)

Johnson's Mills (Photo by Mike Dembeck)

Bay of Fundy areas designated significant for imperiled shorebirds

September 5, 2019
Halifax, N.S.


Habitats near Amherst and Truro recognized by international conservation group

New areas on the Bay of Fundy are being internationally recognized as key wildlife habitats for imperiled shorebirds, thanks to a successful initiative led by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) and its partners. Shorebird habitats in Cumberland Basin, near Amherst, and in Cobequid Bay, near Truro, have been recognized by leading international conservation scientists and are being announced to mark World Shorebirds Day (September 6).

The two new areas, along with two previously recognized areas (Shepody Bay and Minas Basin), have been collectively designated a Landscape of Hemispheric Importance by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN). The new areas, both in Nova Scotia, include beaches and mudflats at Minudie and Amherst Point (near Amherst), and shorelines at Debert, Little Dyke, Fort Belcher and Old Barns (near Truro), where shorebirds rest and feed in summer before migrating south.

The Landscape of Hemispheric Importance designation for the two new areas was decided unanimously by the governing council of WHSRN, an international science-based program that coordinates conservation efforts for migratory shorebirds in North, Central and South America. The Landscape of Hemispheric Importance designation includes habitats in Shepody Bay and Minas Basin that were recognized in 1987–1988 as important for shorebirds.

“Thanks to WHSRN and our partners, including the Government of Canada, we now have recognition for double the amount of Fundy habitat that we had before,” said Kerry Lee Morris-Cormier, WHSRN expansion project coordinator and manager of the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Johnson’s Mills Shorebird Interpretive Centre. “We would like to thank all the community groups, municipal councils, and federal, provincial and Mi’kmaq governments that supported this effort. By working together, we won greater recognition for the plight of shorebirds in the Bay of Fundy and this new designation will help support future conservation work on behalf of shorebirds.”

WSHRN’s recognition of the Fundy coastal habitats is based on results of multi-year research conducted by Mount Allison University, Environment and Climate Change Canada and international researchers — aided by tiny radio transmitters attached to migrating birds — that confirmed how important Bay of Fundy feeding areas are for many species. Results showed that semipalmated sandpipers in particular are more reliant on beaches and mudflats in Debert and Minudie than previously understood. Semipalmated sandpiper populations have declined by 50 per cent since the early 1970s, part of a global decline in shorebird populations due to habitat loss, climate change and other factors. NCC’s work to get greater recognition for Fundy shorebird habitats was supported by funding from the Commission for Environmental Cooperation and the Donner Canadian Foundation.

“I applaud the work of the communities, organizations and all levels of government that have come together to support habitat conservation for our declining shorebirds,” said Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada. Environment and Climate Change Canada will be the Canadian manager of the Bay of Fundy’s Landscape of Hemispheric Importance designation, in partnership with WHSRN.

“As shorebird populations decline, protecting habitat requires international partnerships and more urgent conservation action along their entire migration route, and this is a great example of those partnerships,” said Laura Chamberlin, assistant director for the WHSRN executive office. “This designation doesn’t just expand the geographic boundaries of the WHSRN site, but expands the opportunities for collabration, ensuring that the Bay of Fundy will continue to provide critical habitat for semipalmated sandpipers to rest and refuel on their journey to their wintering grounds.”

The WHSRN Landscape of Hemispheric Importance designation will not change activities permitted on privately owned coastal land, but it will provide a stronger structure for NCC, other conservation organizations, landowners and all levels of government to work together to protect migratory birds. The semipalmated sandpiper migration is one of the world’s longest and most extraordinary wildlife migrations, and coordinated conservation efforts are needed to ensure this natural wonder continues.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada would like to thank the Commission for Environmental Cooperation and Donner Canadian Foundation for their financial support.  NCC would also like to thank the Province of Nova Scotia, Province of New Brunswick, Millbrook First Nation, Fort Folly First Nation, Minudie Heritage Association, Cumberland Wilderness Society, Cumberland,Colchester, Dorchester and Sackville municipal councils, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Birds Studies Canada, Parks Canada, Joggins UNESCO Fossil Cliffs, Mount Allsion University and the Canadian Wildlife Service.  


•    Launched in 1986, the WHSRN network now includes 412 partner organizations participating in 106 sites in 17 countries.  
•    More than 30 years ago, WHSRN recognition helped bring together conservation efforts in the Bay of Fundy, including helping the Nature Conservancy of Canada establish the 227-hectare (562-acre) Johnson’s Mills Nature Reserve and Shorebird Interpretive Centre near Sackville, New Brunswick.  
•    At one time, it was estimated that more than one million semipalmated sandpipers relied on the Bay of Fundy each year. Current estimates suggest populations have declined by more than half — to between 290,000 and 400,000.   

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Kathryn Morse
Director of Communications - Atlantic Provinces

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