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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp

1 July 2002

Kemp Acts To Protect Australia's Threatened Birds


The Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, today announced a boost in the protection of five of Australia's threatened bird species and the inclusion of four albatross breeding sites around Tasmania as the first listings under the national Register of Critical Habitat.

"The Register of Critical Habitat is a new list which, for the first time, seeks to identify and protect habitats vital to the survival of threatened species," Dr Kemp said.

Dr Kemp said the five bird species would be added to the national list of threatened species under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

"Two of Australia's critically endangered ocean going birds, the Round Island Petrel and the Herald Petrel have been added to the EPBC list to help prevent further declines in their numbers," Dr Kemp said.

"The birds are found in some of the most remote parts of Australia, with the Round Island Petrel breeding on North Keeling Island in the Indian Ocean and the Herald Petrel breeding on Raine Island and other small coral atolls in the Coral Seas around the Great Barrier Reef.

"Due to their restricted breeding areas, they are extremely vulnerable to extreme weather conditions such as cyclones, fire and introduced predators such as rats and feral cats.

"Three other smaller birds have also been recognised as being under threat; the King Island Scrubtit, the Yellow Chat, which is only found on Queensland's Curtis Island, and the Spotted Quail Thrush of the Mt Lofty Ranges.

"These three species are critically endangered as a result of threats such as fire, loss of habitat and grazing. King Island Scrubtit numbers have declined to only 200 individuals, largely as a result of tick infestation," Dr Kemp said.

Dr Kemp also announced today the listing of four Tasmanian islands under the national Register of Critical Habitat. This decision highlights the importance of these areas as key albatross breeding sites. The sites to be listed on the Register under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 are Macquarie Island, Albatross Island, The Mewstone and Pedra Branca.

"The listing of albatross breeding habitats under Commonwealth legislation will increase the profile and protection of these magnificent birds. This listing represents a milestone in Australia's efforts to prevent a further decline of the species and will assist in future efforts toward their long-term recovery," Dr Kemp said.

"These four islands provide habitat critical to the survival of the Wandering Albatross, Shy Albatross and the Grey-headed Albatross, all of which are threatened species.

"Macquarie Island, Albatross Island, The Mewstone and Pedra Branca provide the only suitable breeding habitat under Australian jurisdiction for the Wandering Albatross, Shy Albatross and Grey-headed Albatross.

"If these habitats were lost it is unlikely that these species would survive as albatrosses tend to return to the same breeding sites year after year and the populations found on these islands would be unlikely to breed elsewhere."

All four of these remote islands are designated as protected areas in Australia, with Macquarie Island, The Mewstone and Pedra Branca designated as World Heritage Areas. The Tasmanian Government manages these islands.

More information on the Register of Critical Habitat can be found on the Internet at: www.ea.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/index.html. Copies of the Recovery Plan for Albatrosses and Giant Petrels are available by calling toll-free 1800 803 772 or on the Environment Australia web site at: http://www.ea.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/recovery/albatross/index.html.

"The listing of these species and habitats under Commonwealth legislation will help to prevent their further decline and reflects the Commonwealth's recognition of the importance of their conservation values," Dr Kemp said.

Under the EPBC Act, listed species are considered to be a matter of National Environmental Significance. As a consequence, any activity that has, will have, or is likely to have a significant impact on them may need to be assessed and approved by the Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage.

Media contact:
Catherine Job (02) 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400

Commonwealth of Australia