There is an Aquatic Reserve at West Island in Encounter Bay. The Aquatic Reserve is classified as an IUCN Category VI protected area.

According to Wikipedia, “West Island Encounter Bay Aquatic Reserve is a marine protected area. ….. It was proclaimed on 30 November 1971 in order to protect sites used for abalone research in the waters within 100 metres (330 feet) of West Island.”

West Island

(As seen from Petrel Cove, Victor Harbor)

I make mention of this in lead-up to the following story about West island: –

Mr GD (Doug) Seton tells me that he was a Fauna Warden for the SA Fisheries & Game Department in the 1960s. It seems that it was about this time that the Army planned to hold a ‘field-firing’ exercise on the island. A bird enthusiast called Mrs Paton complained to the Fisheries & Game Department about the plan, saying that it must be stopped (because the SA Crested Tern (Greater Crested Tern, Thalasseus bergii?), were nesting there).

According to iNaturalist, “The terns, family Sternidae, are small to medium-sized seabirds closely related to the gulls, skimmers and skuas. They are gull-like in appearance, but typically have a lighter build, long pointed wings (which give them a fast, buoyant flight), a deeply forked tail and short legs. Most species are grey above and white below, and have a black cap that is reduced or flecked with white in the winter.”

The Fisheries & Game Department’s Senior Wildlife Officer, Laurie Delroy is said to have thought that it would be a total waste of time trying to prevent the Army from holding their ‘field-firing’ exercise on the island. Doug asked if the Department could at least try to stop the exercise from going ahead.

Doug contacted the Keswick Barracks as his starting point with the Army. They directed Doug to their Public Relations Officer. The PR Officer directed Doug to the Colonel at the Barracks. The Colonel directed Doug to the General there – a General Warne (GOC of Central Command).

General Warne reportedly gave Doug a “learned lecture about how the seabirds returned to a WWI bombardment of Heligoland (a small archipelago in the North Sea) shortly after”. Despite that, the General announced that “he would transfer their exercise to the Murray Bridge field-firing range”.

This meant that Doug had saved the SA Crested Terns that were nesting there from being fired upon. Doug, however, says that the Director of the SA Fisheries & Game Department got all the credit for saving the birds, as reported on ABC TV that same night.

West Island

(As seen from Petrel Cove, Victor Harbor)

By Steve Reynolds

Steve Reynolds is the current President of MLSSA and is a long-standing member of the Society. Steve is a keen diver, underwater explorer, photographer and is chief author of the Society's extensive back catalogue of newsletters and journals.

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