I’ve been reporting on the appalling die off of seabirds and shorebirds for years.
Now in the Journal Nature the scope of the apocalypse is revealed.
The collapse of ocean pastures that feed all of ocean life has been revealed as birds by the millions die of starvation due to ecosystem collapse.
All is not lost if we act immediately to deploy the methods I have proven will restore and replenish ocean pastures that have become deserts and return them to the state of grace they once were as part of the Garden of Eden. Join me to bring back the birds.
This devastating new report suggests that the ‘usual suspects’ climate change and ecosystem collapse are the cause of the disappearing birds. Shorebirds stream north on four main flyways in North America and Eurasia, and many species are in trouble. The State of North America’s Birds 2016 report, released jointly by wildlife agencies in the United States, Canada and Mexico, charts the massive drop in shorebird populations over the past 40 years.
What the report doesn’t do is offer real and practical solutions we might employ to fight this terrible bird apocalypse. I offer just that proven solution and along with it not only the hope but the promise that we can and WILL save the birds.
My personal history as a life-long birder
Decades ago when I was a student in university I became enamoured with Ornithology (the study of birds). As a young and eager bird geek I spent much of my time doing volunteer work in the university ornithology museum which was run by a senior professor. He’d spent a lifetime as an ornithologist but when I knew him he was teaching a few classes and continuing his birding life in the high deserts of the Intermountain West.
He was an ‘old school’ Audubon style birdman passionate about being in the field looking for new ‘discoveries’. Reports of a rare bird sighting anywhere within a 500 miles would often mean an expedition. I often had the privilege of accompanying him on ‘birding expeditions’ where we had the credentials to collect specimens. I was good company for the professor as I was a good shot with a shotgun, and in his birding tradition no identification of a rare bird was correct without a specimen in hand. The more rare the bird the more determined he was to have it in hand. Good sport in the name of science. ACK!
One aspect of this tradition which kept our blasting under some control was that he insisted that every specimen taken was skinned for museum preservation and the carcass went into the daily pot of bird stew. Needless to say his joke on me, the greenhorn, was to occasionally surreptitiously shoot a crow or magpie to add to the pot which he would make certain ended up on my plate that evening.
Some years later in the early 1980’s I worked to perform ecological inventories for the government of Canada of unique sea and shorebird islands off the west coast of Canada that were candidates for being protected under the UN biological program for creating ‘ecological reserves.’ I spent many a day wandering the most wild and remote island of the Pacific coast often with the odor of bird guano so pungent that even today, some 30+ years later the mere thought renews the smell in my minds nose.
So began my lifelong love of birds and my dedication to them.
In 2012 while at sea in the Gulf of Alaska working to complete the largest ecosystem restoration project in history of the world’s oceans I was fortunate to have hired as my research ships captain a 70+ year old fisherman/birdwatcher captain. While covering the thousands upon thousand of kilometers of ocean during my project from day one the captain and I were always staring through our binoculars from the bridge deck of the ship watching for birds.
What we noted to our horror was the paucity of seabirds we spotted. During any given day in the beginning of our voyage we would see only 2 or 3 or a few tiny seabirds, mostly storm petrels. In the captain’s 50 years at sea in these waters he noted that he’s watched the birds become ever more rare.
Something terrible is happening on the ocean pastures where seabirds, including many shorebirds, find their food.
Mostly the food of sea and shore birds are tiny sea creatures called zooplankton the tiny animal life that feeds on ocean phytoplankton blooms, they swim to the surface every night to graze in what has been described as the greatest migration on earth. It was the dire collapse of those ocean pasture blooms that had brought me to that cold harsh Gulf of Alaska. If our work was a success we would restore the plankton blooms and the ocean pastures to historic condition of health and abundance. We would in doing so be feeding the birds we so love and of course the fish and all the rest of ocean life.
Indeed it just worked!
As we performed our work spreading my prescription mixture of iron rich dust over an expanse of ocean that was 10,000 sq. kilometers in size the ocean immediately began to come back to life turning from a clear lifeless blue to a lush emerald green. As the currents mixed my ocean pasture it grew and grew in size eventually covering as much as 50,000 sq. kilometers. And with the return of the ocean plankton came all the rest of ocean life. First we began to see the birds.
While before the bloom we might be lucky to see a few seabirds each day a few memories recall the miracle of restoring and replenishing that ocean Garden of Eden. One night we’d worked until past mid-night doing CTD casts where we lowered instrument packages into the depths to make measurements and collect data on the bloom. We were in a rich patch of plankton. When we finished I had the captain simply turn off the engines of the ship and I sent the crew to bed for a well deserved sleep after a long long day.
Just before dawn I was awake unable to sleep and i wandered through the dark passage ways of the ship to find my way up to the bridge deck. There was a deck light on but all around the ship it was pitch dark. As the very first light of dawn began to appear I went out on deck and I was immediately struck with a cacophonous sound, it was bird song. So loud as to nearly drown out the sound of the diesel generators running deep in the ship.
As the light of dawn made it possible to see I witnessed thousands of seabirds flying a great circular path around the ship and its lone beacon of light in the vast ocean of darkness. Dawn revealed that the birds were there feeding in the ocean pasture on the rich crop of plankton, the zooplankton that comes to the surface each night is the seabirds delight.
By restoring ocean pastures not only the birds but all of ocean life will return to historic levels of health and abundance. My 2012 project proved this without question. The example of just one of the five species of Pacific Salmon, the Pink Salmon of Southern Alaska perhaps tells the story best.
In 2012 after many years of development work my team completed a commercial-scale pilot project designed to restore and replenish a vital ocean salmon pasture in the N.E. Pacific.
When the salmon who lived in our restored and revived ocean pasture started swimming home in 2013 we were overwhelmed with reports of their numbers. Hundreds of millions of additional salmon over and above the numbers predicted by conventional fisheries science swam back to us with a second treasure trove of delicious data.
The Alaska Pink Salmon catch in the fall of 2013 was forecast to be an especially large catch of 50 million fish, instead a stunning 226.3 million fish were caught. The largest catch in all of history.
There are hundreds of posts on this blog that tell of the promise of the work to restore ocean pastures. Join me, lend a hand, bring life back to the ocean gardens of eden.