What is critical habitat?
'Critical habitat' is an area that is crucial to the survival of an endangered species, population or ecological community. The declaration of critical habitat provides greater protection and stricter controls over activities in the area.
In Sydney's North Harbour, the declaration of critical habitat was based on the biological requirements of the little penguin population and the potential impacts of known and suspected threats. The declared critical habitat contains areas we know the penguins use for nesting and for travelling to their nests. If these areas were lost, there is a chance the population would not survive.
The critical habitat declaration is designed to help the penguins breed successfully and protect them from attacks by predators.
What area is covered by the critical habitat?
The critical habitat is in two areas:
- Area A starts from west of Collins Beach and extends to the northern side of Cannae Point. It includes Collins, Store and Quarantine Beaches to the northern side of Cannae Point. The terrestrial boundary of the critical habitat in Sydney Harbour National Park includes ridgetop areas where penguins currently nest or could potentially nest.
- Area B starts at 11A Oyama Avenue and extends around Manly Point to 26 Addison Road. The land side of the critical habitat includes the area from the mean high watermark, up the rocky foreshore slope to the beginning of the ridgetop in residential areas. The rocky foreshore upslope to the boundary of formed residential backyards is included as critical habitat, but formed backyards and residential areas are not included. For more information see Does your Manly Point Home have little penguin habitat? fact sheet (PDF 1.3MB).
In the water
The critical habitat also includes the harbour (extending 50m out from the mean high water mark) to make it easier for penguins to get to nesting areas. Parts of this aquatic zone include seagrass beds that are likely to be important feeding areas, especially during the rearing of chicks when little penguins are known to seek food closer to their nests.
What does this mean for me?
The following restrictions are now in place within the critical habitat areas:
- No companion animals (except for registered assistance animals) - to protect the penguins from attack. The declaration only includes the steep, rocky foreshore between the rock platform and the top of the cliff. It does not affect flat backyard areas used for private activities. But if you own a dog or cat it should not be allowed onto the rock platform. This is similar to many existing council regulations where dogs are not allowed in public places.
- No fishing between sunset and sunrise during the little penguin breeding season (1 July to 28 February) - to give the penguins a chance to enter and leave their burrows undisturbed.
- No tampering with or damaging little penguin nest boxes, burrows or moulting penguins or approaching within 5m of a penguin on land - to allow penguins to carry on their normal breeding behaviour.
- No anchoring or mooring a vessel in Area A of the little penguin critical habitat, or in such a way that the anchored or moored vessel enters Area A, at any time during the breeding season.
- Between sunset and sunrise, no watercraft (other than non-motorised tenders) can enter or remain in Area A of the critical habitat during the breeding season.
What are the penalties?
Fines already exist under both local government and DEC regulations for taking dogs into certain areas or allowing dogs off leads in lead-only areas.
Given the significance of this area for the survival of the penguin colony, the penalties are quite severe. Anyone found guilty of breaching the regulations can face fines of up to $5500.
Who can I contact?
For an injured, sick or dead penguin
- NPWS Manly office
- NPWS Mosman office
- Little Penguin Recovery Program Coordinator
- Taronga Zoo Wildlife Clinic (during business hours only)
- Sydney Metropolitan Wildlife Services (after hours).
For a dog or cat in the critical habitat area
The rangers or animal control officer at Manly Council.
For irresponsible behaviour on the water
Contact Roads and Maritime Services 13 12 36
(Hours: 8.30am to 5.00pm Monday to Friday and 8.30am to 4.30pm Saturday and Sunday)