The Red Knot, a shorebird which has undergone a drastic decline in recent years, will be listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, according to the New Jersey Audubon.
The action, which is expected to be announced next week, is a critical step toward the long-term protection and recovery of the species, said New Jersey Audubon, which has long addressed issues related to the Red Knot and other shorebirds.
The listing would mean that the species meets the Endangered Species Act criteria of being likely to become in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.
"The Red Knot utilizes the shores of the Delaware Bay extensively during its amazing bi-annual migration between its Arctic breeding grounds and South America," said New Jersey Audubon's President and CEO Eric Stiles.
"Thus, New Jersey plays a critical role in the survival of this species and we applaud the USFWS's decision to list the bird as threatened," he said
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could not be immediately for comment.
The Delaware Bayshore is a critical pit stop in the journey of several migratory shorebird species. In the spring, their arrival is timed with the egg laying of horseshoe crabs.
Without the ability to fuel up on easy-to-digest fats provided by the horseshoe crab eggs, Red Knots are unable to complete a 9,300-mile one-way trip to their breeding grounds.
Horseshoe crab populations have suffered a steep decline since the mid-1990s, following intensification of their harvest.
The USFWS notes that a primary factor in the recent decline of the species was reduced food supply in Delaware Bay resulting from horseshoe crab harvest. Horseshoe crabs are harvested for use as fishing bait and for the biomedical industry.
"New Jersey Audubon was instrumental in the implementation of a moratorium on this harvest to reverse the population plummet of the Red Knot and other species, and has been working with partners for nearly a decade advocating for the Red Knot to receive the protections afforded by listing under the Endangered Species Act," Stiles said.
"The Red Knot is in a battle for its survival and a threatened status reflects the most accurate science," Stile said.
In 2012, only 55 percent of Red Knots stopping in New Jersey reached the necessary departure weights that ensure their survival during migration to the Arctic and successful breeding when they arrive.
"These birds likely fail to survive the journey or reproduce, which results in serious population declines-already well documented in Red Knots and several other shorebird species utilizing crab eggs," said New Jersey Audubon's Vice President for Research David Mizrahi in a statement.
This of course would affect more than just Red Knots. An economic study prepared for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection in 2000 estimated the economic impact of tourism based on the spring horseshoe crab spawning and shorebird migration spectacle at nearly $13 million per season in New Jersey and the overall shorebird migration viewing on the Delaware Bay generating $34 million annually.
New Jersey Audubon supports the threatened designation of the species, which will allow for improved collaborative efforts between the states providing habitat for Red Knots and will enhance actions needed to recover the species in the face of the many threats it faces.
New Jersey Audubon is also conducting a beach restoration project at Stone Harbor Point that will benefit Red Knots during their north and southbound migrations.