World Migratory Bird Day 2019
World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) was initiated in 2006 by Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) an international body of the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA). It is an international day established by United Nations Environment Programme and is celebrated twice a year, on the second Saturday in May and October.
The theme for this year’s World Migratory Bird Day is Protect Birds: Be the Solution to Plastic Pollution! It places the spotlight on the negative impact of plastic pollution on migratory birds, particularly ocean birds, and their habitats. The bi-annual campaign not only raises awareness about the need for conservation of migratory birds and their habitats, but also about the threats they face, their ecological importance and the need for international cooperation to conserve these species.
The timing of the International World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) is interrelated to the departure of migratory birds from the Southern Hemisphere to the Northern Hemisphere for the summer. Most bird species migrate to areas where there is abundant food and nesting grounds annually.
However, large numbers of birds are killed on their return flight from the Northern to the Southern Hemisphere due to anthropogenic behaviour, among others, plastic pollution. Marine litter, including plastic litter, has become a matter of increasing global and national concern as a source of marine pollution. More than 300 million tons of plastics are produced annually, making it one of the most widely used materials worldwide. Plastics are ubiquitous and last for decades, or even hundreds of years, resulting in mountains of waste once they are discarded, most of which often after being used only once. They persist in the environment and many end up in landfill sites, but also in rivers and ultimately the ocean.
The presence of plastic threatens migratory birds worldwide, either through entanglement in, for example, fishing nets, and ingestion of small items of plastic. Large numbers of birds are also smothered by plastic rings, and some seabirds such as cormorants, gannets and gulls have been seen incorporating plastic in their nesting materials. In a research published in 2015, South Africa was ranked 11th in a list of top 20 countries for mismanaged waste, which could potentially become marine litter. Furthermore, over 80% of all marine litter is composed of plastic. Once plastics enter the environment it does not biodegrade, but simply breaks down into smaller pieces over time which becomes a greater threat for marine species once they have entered our oceans.
The adverse effects of plastic on marine species has been receiving widespread attention globally for some time. AEWA indicates that the number of seabirds dying from the effects of plastic annually is one million, and growing. Seabirds were among the first bird species to contain ingested plastic around the 1960’s. It is further suggested that at least 40% of all seabird species contain ingested plastic and some have been recorded entangled by plastic. Species such petrels, albatrosses, gulls and skuas have been observed to contain higher ingestion of plastics. Due to the vast distances travelled by some seabirds, plastics can be dispersed to uninhabited islands. Existing research pinpoints the urgency of the matter: not only do 40 percent of seabirds have plastic in their guts, but this proportion will reach 99 percent by 2050 if there is no intervention.
Avitourism, as it has come to be known, generates millions of rands annually, contributing significantly to GDP. It has also become a large job creator in South Africa.
Department of Environmental Affairs marks World Migratory Bird Day 2019
The Department of Environmental Affairs today marks World Migratory Bird Day 2019, a day set aside annually to raise awareness and educate the public on the plight of migratory bird species. This is an international day established by United Nations Environment Programme and is celebrated twice a year, on the second Saturday in May and October. World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) was initiated in 2006 by Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) an international body of the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA).