Visitor numbers to seabird breeding islands

christopher-surmanChris Surman
  • 1
  • 13 May '21

Hi all,

Recently the Houtman Abrolhos islands were declared a National Park.

Over a million seabirds, mainly terns, noddies and shearwaters nest across numerous islands, some of which are particularly important. The islands are very low lying (<2m) and often very narrow (<100m) and beaches are usually coral rubble.

With Covid 19, the Western Australian Government has decided in its wisdom to increase visitor access. This has led to agencies being bombarded with tourism development proposals, none of which are being vetted for environmental issues (light impacts, visitor traffic, seabird island access, personal watercraft etc etc). I am aware of the GBMPA guidelines to seabird islands.

My question is,

Are there any precedents out there I can present to the governing agencies as the regional expert to better manage visitor numbers to seabird breeding islands?

I am aware this is a diverse area, but currently operators are landing over 60 pax at a time with few guides on areas with minimal beach access, this leads to people entering shearwater rookeries, walking past sur=face nests and the like. Proposals are in place to increase this to 150 at a time! I believe it is already too many at 60 and that smaller groups , 8-12 pax are more appropriate.

I am even keen of suggesting seasonal closures of key sites - unfortunately our leaders want access access access.

Thanks in advance for you responses - feel free to email me at

Chris Surman