Visitr levels to seabird islands

christopher-surmanChris Surman

Hi all,

Hope everyone is well and safe.

I work on a group of islands called the Houtman Abrolhos, where we have some of the most significant seabird breeding colonies in Australia. Most are tropical terns and noddies, with burrow nesting Wedge-tailed shearwaters, Little shearwaters and White faced storm petrels in sandy areas.

Recently some protection has been afforded by the islands being declared a National Park. HOWEVER, due to the push by governments to increase local tourism during this time of Covid 19, there has been a massive increase in visitors and the scale of tours being offered.

My experience is that very small (<8), well guided tour groups are the way to go. We now have one operator ferrying over 50 people (with potential for 150 people) and lobbing them onto one of the few beaches adjacent to shearwater rookeries and the flight paths of Brown and Lesser Noddies and Sooty Terns. The groups are not as yet regulated by any policies and are not there to observe the seabirds specifically, rather to recreate with drones, standup paddled boards and the like.

I am looking for any papers, manuals or guidance that I can then feed into the agencies that have robust recommendations for visiting seabird islands.

The risk to this site and others like it is future development, with kitesurfing likely going forward, and the building of pontoons and cafes offshore with floatplanes carting in visitors!

I really thought this area was going to be well protected but sadly it is under greater risk now than ever before.

Chris Surman

Grenadines_JulianaJuliana Coffey
  • 9 Feb

We have similar concerns at islands in the Grenadines. Visits to the offshore islands have not really taken off yet, but there are no existing regulations governing visitation or activities at seabird colonies in the archipelago.

Here is one document from Aus: "Guidelines for Managing Visitation to Seabird Breeding Islands" Prepared by WBM Oceanics Australia and Gordon Claridge.

Another at: Witless Bay Management Plan. Parks and Natural Areas Division, Department of Environment and Conservation, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador