Birds Canada has found the endangered piping plover nesting at Beach Meadows beach once again. Locals have reported seeing a pair of them walking along the waters edge and Birds Canada have discovered a nest, the first nest sightings since 2013. The piping plover is one of the most important shore birds in the country and are listed as Endangered in Canada under Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) where their conservation status in Nova Scotia is ranked as critically imperilled.
Environment Canada states that last summer, 58 pairs nested on 32 of NS’s beaches – our federal conservation goal is 60 pairs.
Piping Plovers nest only in North America and occur in two populations in Canada, each with subspecies status: the melodus subspecies breeds along the Atlantic coast and the circumcinctus subspecies breeds inland, in the prairie provinces and Great Lakes region. Environment Canada has developed a recovery strategy and action plan.
According to Environment Canada's data, "adults and young feed in marine and bayside foreshore and backshore zones above and below the mean high water mark including along foredunes and beach ridges. Ephemeral pools and areas of wrack are excellent foraging areas." All of these ideal habitat conditions are found at Beach Meadows. Were it not for human activity, it would be perfectly safe breeding grounds.
it is concerning that an industrial scale open net-pen salmon feedlot is allowed to be situated within a zone designated as critical habitat for this species at risk
"Piping Plovers in southern Ontario, Nova Scotia, and southeastern New Brunswick are monitored, protected, and stewarded by volunteers and partners coordinating conservation efforts to help this species at risk. They still face many threats, including habitat loss due to development, disturbances from recreational beach users and off-leash dogs, and natural predators." - Environment Canada
Environment Canada Threat Assessment
Assessment No. 9.2: POLLUTION FROM INDUSTRIAL EFFLUENT
Assessment No. 11.4: STORMS AND FLOODING
For this species to survive its important that their shoreline habitat and water in the breeding grounds on a public beach are protected not only from human traffic and off-leash dogs, but from contaminates in water and pollution that wash ashore. In this regard it is deeply concerning not only that an industrial scale open-net pen salmon feedlot is situated a mere 500m from known breeding grounds of this species at risk situated down-current from a point source of pollution - where feces and feed which can contain antibiotics and chemical pesticides are dumped into the open ocean - but the feedlot site itself falls within a yellow zone mapped as critical habitat. Onshore, the presence of a pink oily sludge is not an uncommon sight on the water's surface along the beach, it washes ashore fouling the sand, rocks and vegetation (documented, reported, no response) as do styrofoam beads from broken buoys washed up onto the beach during storms.
"Piping Plovers depend on dynamic, healthy coastal ecosystems. Key challenges to the recovery of this small shorebird include habitat loss from coastal development, disturbances from recreation and motorized vehicles, predator pressures, and climate change." - Birds Canada
AREAS OF CRITICAL HABITAT
According to Environment Canada "any beach occupied by at least one breeding pair of Piping Plovers in at least one year between 1991 and 2016 where suitable habitat criteria are met is identified as critical habitat under SARA." And in order to protect Piping Plover habitat "Coastal development activities may need to be regulated through federal, provincial and municipal processes if they are likely to destroy critical habitat."
The 1x1 km Grid squares in yellow indicate areas that contain known critical habitat for Piping Plover, including Beach Meadows Beach and Cherry Hill Beach.
With this area being a known critical habitat zone, we call on all levels of government, from local municipal to provincial to federal to uphold their responsibilities in protecting the critical habitat of the Piping Plover in consideration of permitting or accepting of not only the current industrial fish farm at Coffin Island sitting within this yellow zone, but the proposed expansion of it.
Learn more about Canada's Piping Plover Conservation Program here.
For updates on Nova Scotia's Piping Plover Conservation efforts and recent nest sightings visit the Piping Plover Conservation in Nova Scotia Group linked in our facebook post below.