Mekong shorebird conservation - phaseII

Location: Mekong delta
Sponsors: Birdlife International Asia & Anonymous donors
Years: 2021-2023
Collaborator(s) / Partner(s): University of Science - Vietnam National University HCM city, Birdlife International, Vietnature

1. Background

Intertidal mudflats and associated coastal wetlands along the East Asian–Australasian Flyway (EAAF) are of exceptional importance to biodiversity and people. Unfortunately, coastal wetlands are also among the most threatened ecosystems in the world. All around the world, wetlands such as intertidal mudflats, salt marshes and sandy coasts are rapidly being lost to land claim and other forms of coastal development. With a long coastline in excess of 3,000 km, Vietnam has extensive areas of coastal wetlands but many of these remaining areas are under threat from development and intensification of land use. 

The Mekong Delta region of Vietnam forms one of the most densely populated (and heavily cultivated) areas in the country. Yet it also harbours some of most extensive areas of intertidal mudflats, and other types of coastal wetlands in the country (outside of the Red River delta). The Delta region holds several wetland sites known to be important for globally threatened migratory shorebirds such as Spoon-billed Sandpiper Calidris pymaeus, Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris, Spotted Greenshank Tringa guttifer (Endangered), as well as a number of threatened resident waterbirds. However, vast areas of these deltaic wetlands have already been converted to other land uses or degraded by aquaculture and wet paddy farming. Remaining areas of coastal mudflats are now severely being impacted by heavy usage by local people for shellfish harvesting and to some extent, illegal hunting of birds. Over time, changing hydrological conditions in the Mekong is driving up the rate of coastal erosion on the coastline of the Mekong Delta region. 

Using standardised and objective criteria, Viet Nature (the BirdLife Partner in Viet Nam) identified 62 Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) in 2000, four which lies on coastline of the Mekong Delta, and one on the Ca Mau Peninsula further south, and another in Can Gio district in the north-eastern fringe of Ho Chi Min City. Addition surveys subsequent to these pioneering surveys have further identified areas of high conservation value. One of the best known of these sites are the coastal mudflats at the mouth of the Tien Giang River (Go Cong Dong, a proposed IBA in Tien Giang Province, and which supports annual wintering populations of Spoon-billed Sandpiper. Yet, there has been remarkably little progress in monitoring the migratory bird assemblages here, or advancing work to secure thewetlands on the coastline of the Mekong Delta for conservation.

In September 2019, a new shorebird conservation project was jointly established in the Mekong Delta, the ‘Mekong Shorebird Project’ (or ‘MSP’) jointly by WildTour and BirdLife International, with support from Viet Nature Conservation Centre. Through Phase I of the MSP, we undertook a comprehensive scoping study by inventorying shorebird assemblages at regular intervals and mapped four key areas of wetlands for their present importance for migratory shorebirds over an entire migratory season (September 2019 – May 2020). Phase I of the Mekong Shorebird Project has resulted in the establishment of a new comprehensive baseline on the distribution of key shorebird species on the Mekong Delta, while identifying previously undocumented threats to shorebirds from hunting. In addition, this work also led to the discovery of two new sites for the Spoon-billed Sandpiper, one which is being surveyed as part of the project (Binh Dai). The second site was serendipitously discovered by a team member of the MSP in Binh Thuan province. Our interviews found that local people have limited awareness of shorebird conservation, and in cases see wild birds as opportunistic food resources. Under Phase II, we seek to secure additional funding and resources to implement conservation activities in the Mekong Delta, with the aim of strengthening engagement with local communities and establishing new protected areas in collaboration with local people and the government. 

2. Project objectives

The proposed project is for a follow-up, conservation-focused phase (hereafter as ‘Phase II’). Phase II aims to deliver novel conservation on selected priority coastal wetland sites based on the evidence collected in Phase I. Phase II is expected to involve the scoping of specific conservation actions in consultation with key stakeholders, and the development of targeted programmes and activities to actively promote selected priority wetland sites for conservation action. The implementation of Phase II is expected to involve active engagement with local communities and the Government of Vietnam, including the local government and provincial-level governments. 

Phase II is expected to contribute to Vietnam’s commitment to biodiversity conservation and wise use of wetlands (through the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Ramsar Convention) and the Sustainable Development Goals, and in alignment with the Government’s agenda to promote sustainable development in the Mekong Delta. 

The specific objectives for the Phase II of MSP are as follows, 

  1. To promote the technical findings of Phase I of the project to local stakeholders, including but not restricted to local people, researchers and government agencies, with a special emphasis on the wetlands of Go Cong Dong, Binh Dai and Can Gio. 
  2. To identify key conservation measures needed to protect key coastal wetlands for migratory shorebirds in the project sites, in consultation with local communities and local government.
  3. To build and strengthen engagement with local stakeholders (including bird hunters) in the conservation of coastal wetlands through targeted programmes and initiatives.
  4. To develop a plan and recommendations to propose key wetland sites as protected area(s) to the Government of Vietnam, with the view of establishing new coastal protected areas (e.g. nature reserve) in the long-term.


3. Timeframe

Phase II: 24 months – July 2021 to July 2023

4. Outcomes

This project will result in the better recognition of key wetland sites in the Mekong Delta for migratory birds by local communities and the Government of Vietnam. The project will result in the establishment of new protected area(s) to secure key sites through participatory processes involving local stakeholders.

4.1. Specific outcomes 

  1. National and sub-national level government bodies are aware of the significance of Mekong Delta sites for the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, which are then identified as potential EAAF Network sites.
  2. Local stakeholders are aware of the importance of nature conservation to their livelihoods (especially shorebirds) and well engaged at key sites. The livelihood needs of local people better understood at these sites.
  3. A model is developed for the sustainable management of coastal wetlands involving local communities, and that is aligned with livelihoods and the conservation of wetlands and migratory shorebirds.
  4. The develop of a conservation plan outlining the recognition and protection of key sites as protected areas, with the view of establishing new protected areas in the long-term.