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The TikTok and Youtube star presents fascinating facts about Western Sandpiper habitat as Environment Minister is poised to make critical decision on megaport expansion
Ottawa, ON January 27, 2021 – Last week, famed science educator and social media sensation Hank Green featured Vancouver’s Fraser River Delta on his Youtube channel “SciShow”. The video focuses on the Western Sandpiper, a species of migratory shorebird that eats a biofilm (a group of microorganisms adhering to a surface) found on the delta’s mudflats to fuel its annual migration.
The video asks the question “Why are all these birds licking mud?” as a launching off point to highlight the fascinating—and threatened—ecology of the Fraser Delta. Scientists and Canadian nature groups, including Nature Canada, have been sounding the alarm over the proposed expansion of a container port in the delta that threatens the mudflats, the biofilm, the sandpipers and over 100 species at risk in the Fraser Delta.
In the video released last week, Green follows the migration of the Western Sandpipers from South and Central America north to Alaska and focuses on the Fraser Delta as an important stopover site for these birds. It has been estimated that several million shorebirds pass over the estuary each year in migration. The mud teems with tiny invertebrates, diatoms and bacteria that creates a layer of biofilm that grows together in a layer of mucus on top of the mud. The Western Sandpiper feeds on this mucus with their specialized bristled tongues.
“We are very excited to see that people are waking up to the peril that the Fraser Delta is in,” says Scott Mullenix, Nature Canada’s Communications Director who pitched the idea to Scishow last fall. “Hank Green’s video will help bring international attention and more pressure here at home to protect the delta.”
The timing of the video is fortunate as the federal environment ministry ends the latest round of consultation on March 15. Thousands of letters have been sent, and hundreds of official comments have been made opposing the project and calling for the federal government to reject the proposal. Following the end of the consultation, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change will make a critical decision on whether the impacts of the project are acceptable or not. Nature Canada and its many partners have called on the Minister, and all of Cabinet, to put nature first and reject this destructive proposed expansion.
“If the proposed expansion were to go ahead, it would be in direct contrast to the government’s own commitment to halt and reverse nature loss, as it would permanently damage critical habitat in the Fraser Estuary,” says Kelsey Scarfone, Nature Canada’s lead campaigner to protect the Fraser Delta. “The more people who understand the unique beauty and fragility of this ecosystem, the better chance we have to protect it from unmitigatable impacts.”
The Fraser Delta is located in one of the most densely populated urban areas in North America and its ecosystem is under threat from urban and agricultural pressures that have been affecting the overall health of the estuary. The expansion of the Roberts Bank shipping terminal is one of many development pressures threatening over 100 species at risk in the delta. The proposed expansion of the shipping terminal is the principal threat as it would permanently disrupt currents and flow patterns resulting in the loss of key food resources such as the biofilm that helps fuel the shorebirds’ migration.
Nature Canada and other environmental groups are calling for a long-term management plan to protect the Fraser River Estuary that includes efforts from all levels of government and Indigenous communities.
Hank Green is one of the world’s largest independent producers of online video content with more than 8 million subscribers on more than a dozen channels. He is the executive producer of SciShow which was created in 2011 to communicate scientific information through daily videos.
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