Birds Connect Our World: Promoting Wetland Protection to Save Spoon-billed Sandpipers in the Yellow Sea Region

The current global crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic is reminding all of us that “everything connects to everything else” and that one action can have ripple effects influencing and affecting another directly or indirectly.

The same is true even to birds and their habitats that are often taken for granted. Today, we are celebrating the World Migratory Bird Day under the global theme of “Birds Connect Our World”.

Each staging area during migration is integral for breeding, nesting, sustenance, and ultimately the survival of birds. In exchange, the staging areas or habitats benefit from migratory birds thru dispersal of propagules or nutrient cycling, pest control, as well as by providing recreation and even spiritual value.

The journey of migratory birds is long and daunting as it spans across continents and oceans. As such, each stage of their route is extremely crucial.

Sadly the populations of migratory birds, particularly of waterbird species, are in decline and many are threatened with extinction mainly as a result of human interference that led to habitat degradation, pollution, poaching, as well as climate change.

The rich tidal flats of the Yellow Sea serve as critical stopover or refueling sites for migratory birds in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (EAAF), particularly for the Spoon-billed Sandpipers. This small wader is one of the world’s rarest waterbirds that is Critically Endangered. The threats posed by massive reclamation and wetland destruction in the Yellow Sea area have been major drivers to their decline.

But there is still hope for the Spoon-billed Sandpipers. With the combined efforts of the UNDP/GEF/UNOPS Yellow Sea Large Marine Ecosystem (YSLME) Phase II Project, the governments of China and RO Korea, various NGO Partners and conservationist groups, several initiatives have been undertaken to save Spoon-billed Sandpipers and the remaining tidal flats of the Yellow Sea, including:

  • Supporting efforts to understand the trends of globally and regionally important tidal flats and their integration into ecological redline scheme and marine spatial plans to avoid loss to reclamation and other development needs;
  • Promoting the establishment of a permanent YSLME governance mechanism to facilitate the implementation of the YSLME Strategic Action Programme 2020-2030 to serve as the platform for collaboration between governments, academic, NGOs and international organizations in protecting migratory mammal and birds by establishing a network of marine protected areas in particular for Spotted Seals and Spoon-billed Sandpipers;
  • Supporting the development of YSLME MPA Network and integrating migratory species conservation into the YSLME Biodiversity Conservation Plan 2020-2030;
  • Providing technical support to local government to designate Rudong tidal flats as a marine protected area; and
  • Building awareness from local level to regional level on the value of coastal wetlands and migratory birds and the urgency of their protection.

Indeed, “Birds Connect Our World” as the common commitment to save the Spoon-billed Sandpipers and their wetland habitats has connected various stakeholders not only in the Yellow Sea region but also in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway.

As we are all connected, by protecting the Spoon-billed Sandpipers and other migratory birds, as well as their habitats, we are also creating a healthy environment not only for birds, but ultimately for all of us.


In celebration of the World Migratory Bird Day, YSLME joins various environmental organizations all over the world in promoting the importance of ecological and functional connectivity for waterbirds.

With support from various partners and collaborators, the YSLME Phase II Project is pleased to launch a short information video on “Saving the Spoon-billed Sandpipers through Coastal Wetland Protection”. The video (available in English, Chinese, and Korean) may be viewed via:

May this video stimulate more support for the protection of Spoon-billed Sandpipers and their habitats, as well as other migratory birds along the different flyways around the world.

 In line with this, the YSLME Project will also be hosting a “Webinar on the Results of 2020 Census of the Spoon-billed Sandpipers” on May 8, 2020 at 4:00-5:00PM (KST). We invite interested participants to join the Webinar via:

From all of us in the YSLME, Happy World Migratory Bird Day!