Ashmore Reef Whales and Seabirds

To: <>
Subject: Ashmore Reef Whales and Seabirds
From: " Jeff Davies" <>
Date: Wed, 18 Jun 2008 12:18:41 +1000
Hello Tim, I think you hit the nail on the head when you said birding can be
"very very expensive". If a small number of birders are motivated enough to
organise trips at cost and go through all of the logistical stuff to make it
happen without a profit margin factored in, then the limiting factor of how
many of these trips they organise would be how many they can personally
afford to go on. If they deduct the cost of their involvement then they will
in theory be able to organise a greater number of trips which if at cost
price would be of obvious benefit to other birders. These trips are often to
locations not well served by the commercial companies. The bottom line is
does it benefit other birders, I suspect yes. I personally have no idea how
any of these trips are set up and have no vested interest in any of them.

Cheers Jeff.

-----Original Message-----
 On Behalf Of Tim Dolby
Sent: Wednesday, 18 June 2008 11:33 AM
To: Simon Mustoe; 
Subject: Ashmore Reef Whales and Seabirds

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

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' birding. 

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


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 salary. 
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,
> 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
> 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
> 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
> Regards,
> Simon Mustoe.
> PS: Here is my trip report from 2004: Ashmore Reef Cruise Trip Report (24
- 31 October 2004).
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