Where have all the waterfowl gone?
Persistent drought and accelerated habitat conversion in the late 1970s and early 1980s had a drastic effect on the continental waterfowl populations. By 1985, many of these populations were in rapid decline, with the estimated continental population having dropped from 100 million to 55 million birds. The need for corrective action was urgent, and because waterfowl migrate across international borders, only an international initiative would work.
In 1986, Canada and the United States launched an ambitious plan for recovery, The North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP) with a goal to restore waterfowl populations to levels found in the 1970s. With the joining of Mexico in 1994, the plan became the largest environmental conservation partnership in history.
The key to the plan's success is an approach that uses regional partnerships. Joint Ventures provide a framework within which governments, municipalities, businesses, conservation organizations, and individuals collaborate to secure and improve wetland habitat. Six Joint Ventures are presently underway in Canada, dealing both with regional habitat conservation, and research and management of particular species.
Eastern Canada's wetlands are crucial to waterfowl conservation in North America and the world. Representing almost 10% of the world's remaining wetlands, they contribute to the well-being of waterfowl and other wildlife in many important ways, and sustain biodiversity and provide economic, educational and recreational opportunities.
Eastern Canada also contains 65% of the country's human population. From St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, to the growing metropolis of Toronto, Ontario, urban sprawl, industrial development, and intensive agriculture have greatly reduced wetland habitat. By the late 1980s, two thirds of the wetlands of the Lower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Valley and more than half of the salt marshes in the Maritime Provinces had been lost or degraded. In Newfoundland and Labrador, many of the most productive coastal wetland habitats were located in the only bays and coves which are suitable for human settlement. Many of the productive freshwater wetlands were within municipalities or under the jurisdiction of forest companies.
This was the situation facing federal and provincial ministers responsible for eastern Canada's wildlife when they signed the agreement launching the Eastern Habitat Joint Venture (EHJV) on Nov. 15, 1989.
The founding partners included the six eastern provinces (Ontario , Quebec , New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador); Environment Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service ; Ducks Unlimited Canada ; and Wildlife Habitat Canada . Many other agencies, corporate sponsors, municipalities, local conservation groups, landowners, and concerned individuals have since added their support. Contributions take many forms, from cash grants to stewardship agreements, scientific research, and volunteer labor. The success of the Eastern Habitat Joint Venture is a testimonial to co-operation and a common purpose.