Assessing shorebird mortalities due to razor clam aquaculture at key migratory stopover sites in southeastern China

Dan Liang, Tong Mu, Ziyou Yang, Xingli Giam, Yudi Wang, Jing Li, Shangxiao Cai, Xuelian Zhang, Yixiao Wang, Yang Liu, David S. Wilcove

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Aquaculture can provide foraging habitat for birds, but it can also result in intentional and accidental mortality. We examined an overlooked conflict between razor clam (Sinonovacula spp.) aquaculture and declining shorebirds in southeastern China's Fujian and Zhejiang provinces. We surveyed 6 out of 11 internationally important stopover sites for these shorebirds and monitored shorebird mortality in 2 sites (Xinghua Bay, Yueqing Bay) with razor clam aquaculture. We visited an additional 32 sites in these 2 provinces to determine if there was netting in other razor clam farms. Approximately 8–9 km2 of intertidal foraging habitat was covered by horizontal nets to prevent birds from feeding on young razor clams at Xinghua Bay and Yueqing Bay. We conservatively estimated that 13,676 (2.5th–97.5th percentile 8,330–21,285) individual shorebirds were entangled in the nets at the 2 monitored sites in April and May 2021, including 2 endangered and 7 near-threatened species. Mortality of 5 species for which we had sufficient data accounted for 0.76% (black-tailed godwit [Limosa limosa]) to 4.27% (terek sandpiper [Xenus cinereus]) of their total flyway populations. This level of mortality could strongly affect their populations. We found netting at 17 additional razor clam farms, indicating a widespread threat to shorebirds. Although razor clams are typically harvested in late March to early April, nets are left on the mudflats throughout the spring and summer, including when the bulk of shorebird migration takes place. Immediately removing these nets after the clam harvest could prevent most of the spring mortality of shorebirds, although this is unlikely to happen without government regulations or economic incentives. To better assess and mitigate the impacts of this conflict, future research should quantify shorebird mortality at other razor clam farms, including during winter, explore less harmful deterrence methods, and assess the socioeconomic factors driving the conflict.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere14185
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Ecology


  • EAAF
  • East Asian - Australasian Flyway (EAAF)
  • acuacultura
  • almeja navaja
  • aquaculture farming
  • aves costeras migratorias
  • migratory shorebirds
  • mortality rates
  • razor clam
  • tasas de mortalidad
  • 东亚-澳大利西亚迁飞区
  • 死亡率
  • 水产养殖
  • 迁徙鸻鹬类


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