Ashmore Reef Whales and Seabirds

To: Tim Dolby <>, <>
Subject: Ashmore Reef Whales and Seabirds
From: Simon Mustoe <>
Date: Tue, 17 Jun 2008 05:19:00 +0000

Thanks for the email. I think it is important that you bring this up and always 
useful to discuss. The listservers are supposed to be for non-commercial 
purposes but let's just consider that a little more.

I would never condone someone running trips and depending on birding-aus as a 
primary form of marketing for a business but we also have to ask how much is 
given  back to the community and what really does constitute a profit. Birds 
Australia gets paid money by the government and private firms to do a lot of 
valuable monitoring and very often promotes those expeditions through the 
listserver. No doubt Birds Australia's reputation is helped but so too is the 
community. The individuals who promote them in this case though, are paid a 

As long as people are honest and don't take the proverbial, I can't really see 
a problem. But I am always very conscious on my trips to ensure that whatever 
is done results in a reasonable quality report that will have a lasting 
positive impact. This is one of the reasons why I like the Ashmore trip. I 
myself pay to go but I work my socks off doing the database stuff. Rohan Clarke 
does likewise...he produced a valuable report on cetaceans last year. Mike 
Carter does more work than anyone both reporting and writing up rarities, 
planning and looking after people. If anyone doing half this kind of work gains 
concession then so be it.

Let's consider a situation where someone does go for free (as I did on my Coral 
Sea trip in 2006). The person is not making any money. Let's assume now that 
they they make $3,000. Wow! Well, how far does that go to proving a "profit" 
after about 20 days of organisation and then project leading on the trip? Truth 
be told, charities also have to make money and pay themselves so their staff 
can put food on the table for their families but they ultimately break even and 
that is called "not for profit". Just because people who organise pelagics take 
a cut does not necessarily make it commercial.

Finally, what would birding-aus lose if it were not for these people? Australia 
is the world epicentre of pelagics and because about 1 in 100 people bother to 
organise them. It's bloody hard work but worth it if you have the 
determination. Take a cut, why not, you've earned it. If everyone got a 
commercial provider to organise it and make a serious cut then the price would 
jump suddenly very high and the market for pelagics would fall out. We'd lose 
this wonderful opportunity.

Perhaps we should just support our pelagic trip heritage marketed over birding 
aus, so long as they are clearly conservation-driven (i.e. not just a "twitch" 
but an actual expedition looking to break new ground - like some of Richard 
Baxter's frontier trips at the moment). If we can't afford to go on them 
ourselves, our contribution in kind can be to spread the word amongst friends, 
family and colleagues then take part in enjoying the fruits of other people's 
labours and seeing what wonderful discoveries they come back with.


Simon Mustoe.

> Subject: FW: [Birding-Aus] Ashmore Reef Whales and Seabirds> Date: Tue, 17 
> Jun 2008 14:55:10 +1000> From: > To: 
> > > > Your statements about the Ashmore Trip being 
> just like a pelagic may be true - it sounds great. > > However it does raise 
> an interesting ethical questions about other organized trip. For example:> > 
> 1. A birder(s) wants to do a personal 'twitching' trip to see new species, 
> etc.> > 2. Rather than pay for their own expenses they decide to call is an 
> 'organized' trip and promote it i.e. via an email to Birding-aus.> > 3. 
> Because they're the promoter / organizer they also organize that they don't 
> pay. (Something not initially revealed and only revealed under duress).> > 4. 
> In the end you you get a free birding trip with no or minimal expenses.> > 
> Tim> > > -----Original Message-----> From:  
> on behalf of Simon Mustoe> Sent: Tue 6/17/2008 1:24 PM> To: 
> > Subject: [Birding-Aus] Ashmore Reef Whales and 
> Seabirds> > > Everyone,> > I would like to follow up on an appeal for more 
> people to attend the Ashmore Trip. It may be seen as a commercial trip but 
> those of us who go pay money like anyone else to make sure it is a success. 
> It is no more commercial than the rest of the pelagics in Australia and is 
> one of the most valuable sources of information on seabirds and cetaceans 
> from this extremely rich and rarely explored area. The organiser, George 
> Swann, hardly if ever breaks even and should be commended for his amazing 
> commitment to this trip for birders!> > So please, consider coming. This is 
> about the best pelagic you can do off Australia and is happening again this 
> year, departing Broome on the 20th October and returning Broome on the 27th 
> October 2008 (see PS for more details). Just last year the trip recorded 
> eight species of whale and dolphin, including Blue Whale, Dwarf Sperm Whale 
> and Fraser's Dolphin. In years past, Rough-toothed Dolphins and Cuvier's 
> Beaked Whales have also been seen.> > It is the only way to see these amazing 
> islands. Ashmore Reef is a National Nature Reserve located just south of 
> Indonesia and a paradise for wildlife. Several days are spent at sea in some 
> of the richest marine environment Australia has to offer. You will see many 
> sea snakes, turtles and marine mammals. The trip is run as an exclusive 
> wildlife-watching trip with the chance to rub shoulders with some of the best 
> wildlife observers in Australia and explore the remote deep-water offshore of 
> the Northern Kimberley. Exotic birds like Matsudeira's Storm Petrels (from 
> Japan) and Jouanin's Petrels (from the Red Sea) are often recorded.> > Three 
> nights are spent on Ashmore Reef itself, with daily trips to the main island, 
> which attracts migrant birds from south-east Asia. There is also evidence of 
> Indonesian cultural heritage and coral reefs all around. You can snorkel from 
> the main vessel or the island. It is also possible to take one of the vessel 
> tenders to look for turtles and dugongs.> > If you would like more 
> information about this trip, get in touch with Lindsay or George by using the 
> email address on Again, I have no 
> commercial interest in the expedition but it has proved an immensely valuable 
> source of biodiversity data for an otherwise unknown area of the country. 
> Like many others, I have an interest in seeing it continue to succeed for 
> this reason alone.> > Regards,> > Simon Mustoe.> > PS: Here is my trip report 
> from 2004: Ashmore Reef Cruise Trip Report (24 - 31 October 2004).> 
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