Southern Oceans Seabird Study Association's new Kiama base

Bird watchers off Kiama with Southern Oceans Seabird Study Association Inc. (SOSSA). Picture: Brook Whylie-- brookc.jpg

Bird watchers off Kiama with Southern Oceans Seabird Study Association Inc. (SOSSA). Picture: Brook Whylie-- brookc.jpg

Bird watchers off Kiama with Southern Oceans Seabird Study Association Inc. (SOSSA). Picture: Brook Whylie-- brookf.jpg

Bird watchers off Kiama with Southern Oceans Seabird Study Association Inc. (SOSSA). Picture: Brook Whylie-- brookf.jpg

SEABIRD study groups which depart from Kiama are not only assisting with key international research, but are poised to boost tourism in the area.

The Southern Oceans Seabird Study Association is a not-for-profit organisation.

Since April, it has relocated to Kiama as a departure point for pelagic day trips.

Two boats, the MV Kiama and MV Kato leave from Kiama Harbour and, depending on weather conditions and the birds' location, often venture as far as 60-100 kilometres offshore.

SOSSA president, Unanderra's Lindsay Smith, said the group's chartered boats formerly departed from Wollongong (but had moved due to inadequate facilities) for the tours, which have taken place for more than 30 years.

"We don't get any funding or anything from the government," he said.

"From the research point of view, we're catching and tagging albatross and petrel.

"Our main thrust is albatross, but unfortunately they aren't necessarily here all year round.

Albatross captured by Southern Oceans Seabird Study Association Inc. Picture: Maria Jose Moreno Albert T Ross.JPG

Albatross captured by Southern Oceans Seabird Study Association Inc. Picture: Maria Jose Moreno Albert T Ross.JPG

"So we diversify; in the summer we catch mainly petrel and shearwater; in the winter time we target albatross.

He said they fitted stainless steel tags to the birds to track them.

Southern Oceans Seabird Study Association Inc researchers working. Picture: María Jose Moreno-- Researchers working María Jose Moreno.JPG

Southern Oceans Seabird Study Association Inc researchers working. Picture: María Jose Moreno-- Researchers working María Jose Moreno.JPG

"The majority of them breed in the southern ocean ... So we get birds from the other side of the world.

"We're working with these other countries and other governments with their banding groups and their seabird research people.

"We exchange data; if we catch one of their birds that's got one of their bands on them, then we'll notify them, because they're working on the breeding grounds, and vice-versa."

Mr Smith said in order to conduct this research, they took out tourists and others interested in seeing seabirds or marine fauna, who covered the cost of the trips.

They also do counts of the number of birds and species observed.

"Over a 30-year period it builds up quite a picture, what we're seeing, and noticing the decline in the numbers of birds and things like that," he said.

"The East Coast here is unique in the world for the fact that the albatross come close to shore, it generates a lot of interest from right around the world.

"Most of our customers are from overseas.

"You name a country in the northern hemisphere, and they come here."

Mr Smith said tours operating from Kiama would provide a valuable tourism boost.

"It's a really good tourism drawcard, because you've got people bringing money into your local area," he said.

"Since Kiama is such a pretty spot and it's got a lot to offer for tourism and bird watchers, the more day trips the better, because that's more money spent, a lot of money to be generated there.

"Ideally we would like to have a bigger boat and bring more people, because we've always got people on standby."

Kiama council's strategic tourism and marketing manager Lisa Evans said the council welcomed the Southern Ocean Seabird Study Association's pelagic trips.

"We're delighted the association has chosen to offer its open ocean sightseeing trips by departing from our beautiful harbour.

"It provides yet another great asset for Kiama's tourism industry and adds to our municipality's already diverse range of experiences and activities on offer."

■The next boat (Kiama Pelagic) leaves on Saturday, August 22, and Sunday, August 23. If you are interested in participating, email sossa@tpg.com.au

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