By Nicola Crockford, International Species Policy Officer, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)

The East Asian–Australasian Flyway (EAAF) is important for the millions of migratory birds that breed in northern Asia and Alaska and spend the non-breeding season in South-East Asia and Australasia. Every year around 55 migratory birds travel along the flyway which spans 22 countries.

But an independent report commissioned by IUCN’s Species Survival Commission and Asia Regional Office shows that along the flyway, fisheries and vital ecological services are collapsing with resulting impacts on human livelihoods. Migratory waterbird species along the flyway are showing exceptionally rapid declines. The report was commissioned in response to growing concerns expressed by IUCN Members.

So the adoption at the recent IUCN World Conservation Congress of a resolution ‘Conservation of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway and its threatened waterbirds, with particular reference to the Yellow Sea’ is an exciting springboard for concerted action to conserve the Asian coastal habitats of migratory waterbirds, especially in the Yellow Sea of China and Korea.

This was preceded by more than a year of consultations with relevant governments and experts leading to publication of the report IUCN situation analysis on East and Southeast Asian intertidal habitats, with particular reference to the Yellow Sea (including the Bohai Sea) which provides a factual basis for the resolution.

The main objective of the resolution process was to develop a constructive dialogue with the relevant authorities, to enable the international conservation community to offer support as needed in further developing and implementing sustainable coastal zone planning in the key countries, especially of the Yellow Sea.

Thanks to useful discussions in the run-up to, and during the IUCN Congress, especially with the delegations of China and the Republic of Korea, plans are afoot to hold, during 2013, national government-led meetings including discussions on implementing the resolution.

Meanwhile, a two-year post-doctoral study on the ecosystem services of the Asian coastal zone began at Princeton University and will contribute to a larger IUCN study. It may be that this in turn can contribute to a possible sub-regional initiative under the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) towards the end of 2014.

An EAAF Partnership side event in October, at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity Conference in Hyderabad, will provide an opportunity for discussion on next steps for implementing the resolution.