Assessing hunting policies for migratory shorebirds throughout the Western Hemisphere


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18 April 16

Bryan D. Watts, Courtney Turrin


Bryan D. Watts
Center for Conservation Biology, College of William and Mary & Virginia Commonwealth University, Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795, USA


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We evaluated policies that pertain to the hunting of migratory shorebirds for jurisdictions (n = 57) throughout the Western Hemisphere. We focused on participation in international treaties and the existence and terms of domestic legislation with respect to the subsistence, commercial and sport hunting of shorebirds. Most (96.5%) jurisdictions are party to at least one international treaty designed to protect migratory birds and nearly 90% have established corresponding domestic laws. Of the 27 jurisdictions that authorize some form of shorebird hunting, 22 (81.5%) require a hunting license for one or more forms of hunting, 14 (51.8%) specify a season for hunting and 12 (44.4%) have bag limits for at least a portion of the hunted species. Most (91.2%) jurisdictions fall into two policy categories, including those that protect all or nearly (>90%) all and those that protect very few (<10%) migratory shorebird species. The former includes 39 (68.4%) jurisdictions, 29 of which have complete prohibitions on shorebird hunting. The latter group includes 13 (22.8%) jurisdictions that either have no policy that includes shorebirds or protect only those species formally listed in the Bonn Convention. Remaining jurisdictions include five of the six overseas departments and collectivities of France, all of which have shorebird hunting seasons when from eight to 32 species may be taken. Ten of 11 jurisdictions where sport hunting of shorebirds is legal and practiced are exclusive to the Atlantic Flyway. Priorities for further regulation are those species for which the likelihood that harvest levels may exceed sustainable limits is high. This group includes species that have a low tolerance for mortality and species that may have a high tolerance but evidence suggests that harvest may exceed sustainable levels. More information is needed on collective legal and illegal harvest of all shorebirds in order to establish sustainable flyway-wide hunting policies.

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