The estuaries, shores, sloughs and tidal areas of Kachemak Bay have joined the prestigious Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network, a partnership between the government and private enterprises that designates important shorebird areas in an effort to boost public awareness.
There are 90 sites in 14 countries worldwide, including four others in Alaska — Copper River Delta, Kvichak Bay, Nushagak Bay and the Yukon Delta.
Twenty-two years ago, such Kachemak Bay sites as Fox River Flats, Mud Bay and Mariner Park Lagoon were added to the network. Over time, some scientists and birders came to believe the entire bay should receive the designation
"I think it's a big deal," said Joe Meehan of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. "It doesn't offer any new protections to anything. But it is part of an international effort to keep attention focused on shorebirds. The more the public realizes how important areas like Kachemak Bay are to shorebirds the better it is. It effects shorebirds that travel all the way from South America and Asia."
The city of Homer, Kachemak Bay Birders, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Fish and Game supported the move. A ceremony will be held Saturday in Homer as part of the popular Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival, which celebrates the thousands of shorebirds returning each spring to Alaska and brings hundreds of birders to town.
Over the years, they've seen some 40 shorebird species in Kachemak Bay.
Fish and Game officials said there's no cost in joining the network — and no regulatory requirements. Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network officials based at the Manomet Bird Observatory in Plymouth, Massachusetts, decide which new areas to add to the network. Kachemak Bay Birders made the initial nomination with the concurrence of landowners.