Above picture: Marion Island base. Photo, Anton Wolfaardt

One of the critical issues that the Mouse-Free Marion (MFM) Management Committee has been discussing recently is the timing of the baiting operation. Although we were initially working towards an operation taking place in the austral winter of 2023, we have always understood that this is a very ambitious target date and, consequently, that the operation may need to be deferred to 2024.

After extensive and considered discussions regarding the time required to raise the necessary funds and for the multitude of planning, regulatory and procurement processes, the MFM Management Committee recently recommended that the baiting operation be deferred to 2024. This recommendation has been endorsed by the MFM Project Steering Committee and the respective partner organisations.

A deferral of the operation to 2024 does not represent a pause in the project work. Rather, it provides additional, much needed, time to complete our planning and preparations to a level that will maximise the likelihood of a successful eradication outcome.

Operational year postponements are not unusual in such large-scale and highly complex eradication projects, and are generally a result of a considered assessment of likely readiness for the initial intended operational year. One of the common factors in successful eradications is that the quality and level of detail of the planning largely determines the quality and success of the outcome. This is partly a reflection of the time available to complete the requisite planning. Rushed planning tends to lead to items being overlooked, or planning not being fully completed, and usually has ramifications once on the island. The additional time also relieves pressure on the fundraising target, enabling more time for fundraising to be progressed whilst project planning continues. Conducting the baiting operation in 2024 gives us a better chance to bring all the required regulatory, logistical, procurement and fundraising needs to completion at the same point of readiness than if we were to aim for a 2023 operation.

We are very grateful for all the interest and support the MFM project continues to receive. We look forward to keeping you informed of our progress in working towards the goal of saving Marion Island’s seabirds and facilitating the ecological restoration of this globally important island.

You can help save Marion Island’s seabirds by donating to the ‘Sponsor-a-Hectare’ crowdfunding initiative.

Dr Anton Wolfaardt, Mouse-Free Marion Project Manager, 26 October 2021