08:34 PM

For Immediate Release

Defenders Files Suit to Save Disappearing Red Knot

WASHINGTON (June 21, 2018) – Defenders of Wildlife filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia today to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to comply with its mandatory duty to designate critical habitat for the threatened red knot before it’s too late. FWS added the red knot to the list of threatened species in 2014. That determination triggered a requirement to designate critical habitat for the species, a requirement that the Service has failed to observe.

Red knots, a migratory shorebird found along the Atlantic Coast, are struggling to survive in the face of climate change, habitat loss and low numbers of horseshoe crab eggs, which are a primary food source for the birds during their annual migration. Designating critical habitat for this threatened species would help protect areas where the red knot rests and prepares for migration, like the Delaware Bay, which are essential to its conservation.

Statement from Defenders of Wildlife Senior Staff Attorney Jason Rylander:

“While the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service drags its feet, the red knot is disappearing from our shores. Atlantic coast shorelines are shrinking and horseshoe crab populations have declined – adding to the threats the birds face. Red knots travel thousands of miles and evade countless dangers to reach their feeding and breeding grounds each season, but this is one challenge they cannot overcome without our help. We cannot afford to wait to secure critical habitat for this bird.”


About the Red Knot:

  • Red knots have the longest migratory route of any shorebird. They travel from Chile to the Canadian Arctic each spring, with only one or two stops along the way.
  • Historically, red knots visit Delaware Bay, where every spring a massive horseshoe crab breeding event takes place. Red knots gorge themselves on horseshoe crab eggs and regain the body weight lost from their long migration. Then, they fly off to their nesting grounds in Northern Canada.
  • Now, the red knot is facing serious challenges to its survival. The horseshoe crab population and density of eggs during the breeding event has declined dramatically due to commercial bait harvest and the biomedical industry (which harvests horseshoe crab blood).
  • Piers, boardwalks and other hard structures reduce red knot habitat and make it harder for birds to access horseshoe crab eggs.

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With over 1.8 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit Newsroom.Defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.