Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2004
ISBN: 0 642 55078 6
Abbotts booby is listed under the Japan/Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (1974), as a migratory species in need of protection, and CITES Appendix I (1975), as a species threatened with extinction for which international trade in specimens is permitted only in exceptional circumstances.
Actions associated with recovery of Abbotts booby are unlikely to impact negatively on tourism. The booby is a charismatic species whose plight is likely to enhance the attraction of the island to tourists and raise awareness of the special conservation problems faced on islands. It may be possible to involve eco-tourists in rehabilitation of mining fields and weed control. The park is readily accessible to tourists and locals and this will not be compromised by the recommendations in this recovery plan. Further, the actions recommended in this plan will enhance the park for visitors.
Figure 1. Known Abbotts booby nest sites (mostly mapped 1991; Yorkston and Green 1997) in relation to the distribution of the boobys rainforest habitat.
Mining was once the major source of employment on the island but wholesale mining ceased in 1987. The Mining Lease between the Commonwealth of Australia and Phosphate Resources Limited, signed in 1997, came into effect in February 1998 for a period of twenty-one years. The lease covers the re-mining of old stockpiles and in-situ mining of previously mined areas. The lease includes areas surrounded by, but not within, the National Park. The mining schedule was suspended in June 1999 pending completion of negotiations for the Asia Pacific Space Centre. The mining schedule was reinstated in principle in July 2002 and is currently being renegotiated as part of a limited review of the Mining Lease.
Phosphate mining in areas of primary rainforest that are either current or potential nesting sites (see Habitat critical to survival above), or forested areas adjacent to nesting sites (including areas up to 300m downwind of nesting sites) is incompatible with the recovery of Abbotts Booby as clearing of such rainforest reduces the available nesting habitat. In addition mining impacts on nesting (particularly through decreasing nesting success) at sites that are directly adjacent to lease areas. Recovery of Abbotts booby is not only incompatible with phosphate mining in these locations, but also in those areas:
- immediately adjacent to previously unmined primary rainforest that is a current or potential nesting site; and
- previously mined areas in the process of or flagged for forest regeneration specifically for the purpose of Abbotts Booby habitat restoration.
It is recommended that previous conditions, and schedule priorities identified in Table 2 of the Christmas Island National Park Management Plan (Environment Australia 2002), be reinstated but that greater consideration be given to retaining stockpiles where they support significant regrowth, which could limit the lease further.
Actions associated with recovery of Abbotts booby are unlikely to impact negatively on the resident human community on Christmas Island and may provide a source of interest, pride and involvement in nature conservation matters. The Parks Australia North Christmas Island Education and Interpretation Plan is a useful framework by which to promote community ownership, support and involvement. Interested members of the community (including the school) could be involved in implementing the plan by assisting in monitoring and forest rehabilitation programs.
The small community of Christmas Island is associated closely with all industry and development activities as a source of employment, income, and social interaction. Active consultation and education during the development and implementation of all Recovery Plans is essential to ensure community views are considered. Under the EPBC Act a 3 month public consultation process is required before plans are adopted or made. It is important to note that Christmas Island has a strong multicultural community and consideration of more proactive methods of consultation, such as meetings with community groups, should be given.
Several actions associated with recovery of Abbotts booby, will have implications for the establishment and servicing of the Immigration Reception and Processing Centre on Christmas Island. Collaboration and consultation in relation to the construction and operation of the Centre is essential to full implementation of this recovery plan, including the rehabilitation and monitoring aspects.
In its currently conceived form the Asia Pacific Space Centre is unlikely to be limited by actions to recover Abbotts booby. The actions contained in this recovery plan are unlikely to impact negatively on activities associated with APSC, a potential source of employment and improved transport facilities on the island.
The EPBC Act already provides a regulatory framework for the protection of rainforest on Christmas Island, and one element of this is assessing potential impacts of proposed developments on listed threatened species. These provisions have the potential to impact on economic activity.
This arises from the listing of the species under the EPBCAct invoking a range of protective provisions and offences where a population is to be affected. The magnitude of any potential constraint is unknown, as it will vary with the location, size and extent of the activity, proposed or current. However, the recovery plan will aid in determining what could be significant impacts on the Abbotts Booby (through defining and mapping habitat critical to survival, monitoring status and distribution, assessing success of rehabilitation, and developing a management plan outside the national park).
Minimising threats to Abbotts booby may benefit other species that share the same breeding and/or foraging habitat. Other seabird species which breed on Christmas Island, such as the Red-footed Booby Sula sula, Brown Booby S. leucogaster, White-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon lepturus, Great Frigatebird Fregata minor and endangered Christmas Frigatebird F. andrewsi are affected by some of the factors that threaten Abbotts booby. Similarly, rainforest-dwelling land-birds, mammals and reptiles, such as the endangered Christmas Island Hawk-Owl Ninox natalis, Murrays Pipistrelle Pipistrellus murrayi and Christmas Island Gecko Lepidodactylus listeri, will benefit from actions that restore and protect the rainforest. Implementation of this Recovery Plan is unlikely to have any negative impacts on other native species or ecological communities.