To the Editor:
It is unusual for me to be at a loss for words, especially when it comes to bird protections, but here I am, struggling to express my dismay at the lack of appreciation, dare I say disgust, for wild birds expressed by many of those who fish and who are pushing for more OSV access to the South Shore and Chappy beaches.
The interests of fishermen and protections in place to protect endangered species are often at odds, and the dialogue we hear can be callous. Specifically, in the paper on Jan. 25, the author of the fishing column (Lisa Belcastro, “Mother Nature and the fate of fishing”), in reacting to the possibility that recent storm damage may have created new plover habitat, stated “every fisherman out there will be keeping his or her fingers crossed that the plovers nest elsewhere,” and said that the word “plover” strikes fear in the hearts of fishermen.
These comments are extremely irresponsible, selfish, and short-sighted. Plovers and their progeny, and all the shorebird species we enjoy on the Island, have been returning to our shores seasonally for as long as data have been collected, and much longer. There is no “elsewhere,” and the birds will continue to grace us with their presence and find refuge on our shores as long as we protect their habitats. And if an additional nesting beach is created as a result of storms, let us celebrate that. This is nature’s way.
The Vineyard is one of the most important nesting locations in Massachusetts for many shorebirds, including plovers, and we should be proud of that fact, and also proud that we have private organizations doing the difficult work of ensuring the success of these birds. Hoping the birds “nest elsewhere” should not be part of anyone’s vocabulary, and as we think about what we will be leaving to our children, this is certainly not the lesson we should be teaching them as they experience the outdoors.
Birds have been on the beaches far longer than humans, and while this is merely our playground, it is their lifeline, their home. Our Island habitats are essential to their survival, especially as unchecked human population growth continues to bring development and habitat loss. It is our responsibility to step up, reverse what we’ve done, if possible, and protect what remains. All living things are of equal value, all have a place in the ecological web, and all deserve protection and compassion.
We’re talking about a tiny bird you can hold in the palm of your hand, who travels thousands of miles to nest, feed, and rest. I would much rather be on the side of those who are in awe of this feat, and who find joy in the diversity of wildlife we so enjoy here on the Island.
Please look at photos of these beautiful birds, and try some compassion.