Mitigating Marine Debris Impacts on Threatened Seabirds of the Houtman Abrolhos National Park

Over the past two years, NACC NRM’s Coastal and Marine team and Dr Chris Surman of Halfmoon Biosciences, have been working to mitigate marine debris impacts on seabirds at the Houtman Abrolhos Islands! Last month, Dr Chris Surman hosted a presentation and discussion of project results and outcomes, hosted at the Museum of Geraldton.

Thank you to everyone who has been involved throughout the two-year project, together we have removed, sorted and analysed over 60kg of marine debris from Osprey and Lesser Noddy nests, and adjacent shorelines at the Abrolhos islands.

The first year of data collection set a baseline, with the second year of surveys representing the amount of debris that is lost or uncovered within a year. As expected, we saw a dramatic reduction in debris present in both Osprey and Lesser Noddy nests, as well as adjacent shorelines, from 1422 pieces of debris in 2022 to 533 pieces in 2023. However, the amount and types of debris present in the second year data still highlights the significant threat of marine debris in this environment, specifically to seabirds who build their nests with materials from the shoreline and sea.

Debris sorting with Yamatji Southern Regional Corporation Sea Rangers. Photo Credit: NACC NRM

This project worked to quantify the impact and identify the source of predominant marine debris found in nests and on the shoreline. We engaged with a diverse and passionate group of stakeholders to encourage and develop targeted community engagements and a collaborative source reduction strategy.

This project has seen a clear reduction in the amount of plastics, ropes and other debris in Lesser Noddy and Osprey nests and increased community understanding of impacts to seabirds from marine debris.
Thank you to all of our partners and supporters who made this project so successful.

Final presentation with community and industry stakeholders in Geraldton. Photo credit: NACC NRM

This project was supported by funding from the Western Australian Government’s State NRM Program.

Author: Alanah Campbell – Coastcare Support Officer, NACC NRM

Feature Photo: Osprey chick in its plastic-ridden nest on the Houtman Abrolhos Islands. Feature Photo Credit: Chris Surman, Halfmoon Biosciences