Conservation Evidence strives to be as useful to conservationists as possible. Please take our survey to help the team improve our resource.

Providing evidence to improve practice

Action: Start educational programmes for personal watercraft owners Bird Conservation

Key messages

Read our guidance on Key messages before continuing

A before-and-after trial in the USA found that rates of disturbance by personal watercraft decreased and reproductive success of common terns Sterna hirundo increased following a series of educational programmes aimed at recreational boat users.


Supporting evidence from individual studies


A before-and-after trial from July-August in 1997-8 in the waterways surrounding a common tern Sterna hirundo nesting island in Barnegat Bay, USA (Burger & Leonard 2000), found that disturbance and reproductive costs caused by personal watercraft (PWC) disturbance significantly decreased after the implementation of educational campaigns in late 1997. The proportion of PWCs moving past the nesting island decreased from 60% in 1997 to 30% in 1998 and PWCs moved at significantly slower speeds. No PWCs went all the way around the nesting island in 1998. The number of terns displaced by PWCs significantly declined (from an average of 40 birds flying over the nesting island in 1997 to 20 birds in 1998). Fledging rate in 1998 was almost 1 chick/nest, similar to before PWC influx (pre-1996). The educational campaign was aimed at local PWC rental businesses and owners and signs were posted around tern nesting islands. 


Referenced papers

Please cite as:

Williams, D.R., Child, M.F., Dicks, L.V., Ockendon, N., Pople, R.G., Showler, D.A., Walsh, J.C., zu Ermgassen, E.K.H.J. & Sutherland, W.J. (2019) Bird Conservation. Pages 141-290 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, N. Ockendon, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2019. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.