Campaigners and bird lovers across the state will be delighted to hear that Premier Jay Weatherill's has announced the Ridley Saltfields and adjoining areas are to become a migratory bird sanctuary. The anouncement was made at the Conservation Council of South Australia's election forum on Friday 7th March.
The saltfields are listed as being of national and international significance for migratory shorebirds that travel annually to Australia along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway from as far away as Siberia.
The flyway passes through 22 countries with about 55 migratory species, a total of five million birds travelling along it.
The migratory shorebird habitat has been protected by security associated with the salt fields which have been operating since the 1930's.
The Penrice Soda Osborne plant had used harvested local salt for its Solvay process but now imports soda ash for its requirements.
Left without a market the saltfields face closure and hence the destruction of the shorebird habitat.
It is vital that migratory shorebirds can eat enough to put on sufficient fat for the energy to complete the lengthy journey back to their northern hemisphere breeding grounds
Their primary feeding grounds are the intertidal flats along the coast. When the tide is high the birds retreat to the adjacent coast and salt fields.
The saltfields are particularly useful as they provide energy-rich food sources such as brine shrimp for the birds as well as a secure haven to allow them to feed uninterrupted and put on the weight they need for the long flight north. This secure haven probably predates the saltfields when mud flats, saltmarshes and salt lakes extended from Adelaide right up the Gulf.
Rehabilitation of the saltfields will be a challenge, but it is encouraging to know that a start has been made