5 Jul 2019

Yellow Sea shorebird habitats secure World Heritage listing

China, with great support from Australia, has secured one of the biggest ever wins for the world’s migratory waterbirds: the World Heritage Listing of key sites on China’s Yellow Sea coast

The Far Eastern Curlew (Endangered) relies on the Yellow Sea as a migratory stopover site © Wang LiQiang / Shutterstock
The Far Eastern Curlew (Endangered) relies on the Yellow Sea as a migratory stopover site © Wang LiQiang / Shutterstock
By BirdLife Policy

BirdLife International celebrates the decision of the World Heritage Committee to inscribe key sites along China’s Yellow Sea coastline on the World Heritage List. We would like to congratulate the government of China for its central role in conserving the Yellow Sea and for helping secure the conservation of waterbirds across the entire East Asian-Australasian Flyway. China’s role, which has been confirmed by the World Heritage Committee, will be welcomed across the flyway by nations and people who share the waterbirds that use the Yellow Sea, as part of a shared and collective natural heritage.

The Yellow Sea is at the centre of the East Asian–Australasian Flyway, a migration ‘super highway’ which supports the world’s greatest overall numbers, diversity, and number of threatened species of migratory waterbirds. It links the waterbird populations of more than 22 countries and serves as the most important staging area for migratory waterbirds birds along the flyway.

The mudflats of the Yellow Sea are vitally important for the survival of more than 17 globally threatened migratory shorebirds. In particular, the conservation of Tiaozini, which is a key component of the nomination, alongside the adjacent wetlands of Yancheng, is essential to prevent the extinction of the charismatic and Critically Endangered Spoonbill Sandpiper Calidris pygmaea as about 40% of the population of this species, of which only about 210 pairs are left, depend on the site during spring and autumn migration. Tiaozine also hosts about 80% of the Spotted Greenshank Tringa guttifer and a sixth of the Red-crowned Crane Grus japonensis (both Endangered), which is of great cultural significance to the people of China and other East Asian countries.

BirdLife International would especially like to commend the outstanding commitment and visionary leadership of the government of China and its institutions both in the submission of this nomination and on the remarkably robust regulations complementary regulations that have been put in place in the past year, including banning coastal wetland reclamation while requiring coastal wetland restoration and banning wind farms in ecologically sensitive areas including those important for migratory birds. The decision acknowledges the exceptional efforts, in recent years, of the Chinese government, its institutions and its people to protect and conserve these valuable areas and their biodiversity which are of immense global importance.

This inscription not only confirms the outstanding universal value of the site but serves as an example of how strong political leadership can help secure conservation at scale. China has managed to secure sustained economic growth whilst safeguarding its incredible natural heritage. The decision by China to ban coastal reclamation, for example, is a clear example of how conservation goals can be incorporated into the development agenda and this has been integral in securing the status of the site.  We hope that China’s example and its commitment to deliver an ecological civilization policy for its people and the world will also inspire governments and institutions across the Flyway and internationally to take similarly bold steps to protect nature and people.

BirdLife International stands ready to support China and other countries along the Flyway in their efforts to further conserve biodiversity, including the shared natural heritage that is migratory birds. We are confident that the decision will also help to expedite the inscription of other important sites in China, South Korea and, hopefully, North Korea.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter!

China will host the 15th Conference of the Parties of the United Nation’s Convention for Biological Diversity in 2020. China’s leadership will be critical in delivering a comprehensive new vision for the conservation of biodiversity and the nomination of the Yellow Sea underscores what that new vision should represent.  BirdLife International will do its best to support China in its efforts and to help secure the future of biodiversity on our planet.