Ashmore Reef Whales and Seabirds

To: "Simon Mustoe" <>, <>
Subject: Ashmore Reef Whales and Seabirds
From: "Tim Dolby" <>
Date: Wed, 18 Jun 2008 11:32:51 +1000
Yes, excellent points Simon, well said, and thanks for your honest reply. I 
couldn't agree more. As mentioned I have absolutely no problem with the Ashmore 
Reef trips, or anybody who organises them, or for that matter any other 
organised birding trips. Birding trips are what birding is all about ? and for 
whatever reason - whether it's data collection or just pure birding fun.

This was not the reason I replied to your message. The reason I replied was 
because you contextualised it in terms of 'commercial' versus 'non-commercial' 

My problem is (and it's a bit of a personal gripe, apologies everyone and Simon 
for the whinge) when birders try to get other people to pay for their birding 
trips, whether in Australian waters or to overseas destinations (such as South 
America), often under the guise of trip sharing rather than commercialisation. 
You mention that as long as people are honest and don't take the proverbial 
there's no problem. I couldn't agree more. However what about when people are 
taking the proverbial. From personal experience birding is very addictive. It 
can also be a very very expensive. As a result, like anything else, it is open 
to potential bad practice. Although, as you pointed out, rather than being a 
negative, there may be some merit in this?


Ps. if anybody wants to send me negative reponses send it to me personally.

PPs. I might change the topic. Anybody seen any good birds today? My most 
interesting bird for the day so far is Scaly-breasted Lorikeet.

-----Original Message-----
From: Simon Mustoe 
Sent: Tue 6/17/2008 3:19 PM
To: Tim Dolby; 
Subject: Ashmore Reef Whales and Seabirds


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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