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Long Beach Tern Colony Devasted

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  • debmcduck1956
    Birders, There is, evidently, a full-blown investigation of the Long Beach Harbor tern colony disaster in the works. But this merely points out that wildlife
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 3, 2006
      Birders,

      There is, evidently, a full-blown investigation of the Long Beach
      Harbor
      tern colony disaster in the works. But this merely points out that
      wildlife agencies seem impotent to do anything to prevent such
      disasters
      (they can only attempt to react after disasters have happened). This
      is
      due mainly to two things:
      (1) California Fish and Game and U. S. Fish and Wildlife have
      been hit by staff and budget cutbacks (and, they will argue, by court
      challenges to their work) for so long that they can do very little in
      the way of habitat and wildlife protection. We're partly at fault
      because "we" keep electing anti-environment budget-axing politicians
      who
      could care less about wildlife. Fortunately, most politicians have to
      publicly appear to be opposed to the murder of cute, fuzzy baby
      terns,
      so maybe some pressure right now could result in some short-term
      gains.
      (2) The average American is absolutely 100% unaware of the
      Migratory Bird Treaty Act that protects our native bird species (and
      their parts, eggs, nests, etc.) from "take". I deal with the public
      all
      the time about such matters and it is astounding what people don't
      know.
      This means that agencies (and all of us) need to take a proactive,
      protective stance when sensitive wildlife issues arise. I don't know
      the details of the Long Beach case, but I find it fully believable
      that
      the barge caretakers had no clue that the terns "infesting" their
      barges
      had any legal protection. That's no excuse for violating the law, of
      course, but only a sea-change in thinking (i.e. operating on the
      assumption that all birds are protected from harm) will prevent
      future
      such occurrences. It is sad, but undoubtedly a consequence of (1)
      above, that the agencies knew about this colony and couldn't protect
      it,
      and allowed a second barge's nesting effort to be destroyed even as
      the
      issue was in the public spotlight after the first barge was
      ransacked.

      One other part to my tirade... Elegant and Caspian Terns nested
      nearly
      every year since the late 1990s in large numbers (along with small
      numbers of Royal Terns and Black Skimmers) on the fill area at Pier
      400
      in Los Angeles Harbor, just a few miles from the Long Beach nesting
      site. Port construction proceeded (as planned) to the point that
      only a
      much smaller area of Pier 400 was available to colonial waterbirds.
      Because Least Terns are listed as Endangered and the other species
      are
      not so listed, the decision was made this year to allow ONLY Least
      Terns
      to nest in the area. Hence, we saw the movement of the Elegants and
      Caspians to what turns out to have been a disastrous alternative
      site.
      Once again, we are incapable of managing for a diversity of native
      species, proceeding instead with the tunnel-vision of protecting only
      "listed" species. It seems perfectly reasonable that port expansion
      planning could have accommodating several (not just one) tern
      species,
      but that didn't happen.

      Extensive efforts are being made to raise and ultimately release the
      few
      dozen young terns recovered alive. This is laudable, but a cursory
      knowledge of tern biology (with juveniles being fed by adults for
      weeks
      or even months post-fledging, and the specialized foraging techniques
      requiring much parental tutelage) suggests that the efforts are
      likely
      to have little success. All released birds will be banded, so this
      will
      be a good opportunity to monitor the efficacy of such rehabilitation
      efforts.

      Here's hoping that birders, wildlife agencies, and those who use the
      harbor areas of Long Beach and Los Angeles can find a way to protect
      these terns in the future.

      KLG

      Kimball L. Garrett

      Sent to you by:

      Debbie McGuire
      Wetlands & Wildlife Care Center
      21900 Pacific Coast Highway
      Huntington Beach, CA 92614
      (714) 374-5587 Business
      (714) 713-1155 Cell
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