Nicolas Jouault, of the Société Jersiaise, says that roseate terns – which nest on the reef’s Marmotière island – are being driven away by large numbers of visitors.
He added that last year 40 pairs nested at the reef, off the north-east of the Island, but this year there were just five. According to the RSPB, there are only 111 pairs known to nest in the British Isles.
Mr Jouault said: ‘My main concern is the nesting birds around the flagpole [on Marmotière]. It has been a bit of a disaster really. I had a meeting with our Environment Department who said that their nesting area would be protected but they are now saying that people need to access the [nearby] bench. There are only five nesting pairs of roseate terns there now when there were 40 last year.
‘It is a crucial time for them and a crucial site. They have lost other breeding spots like Elizabeth Castle and Le Hocq because of humans and gull predation. The terns get disturbed and the gulls come in and eat their chicks’ eggs. If the terns are in numbers then they can usually fend for themselves but not if there are only a few of them.’
Mr Jouault added that he was worried that roseate terns could face a similar fate to other seabirds such as puffins which have largely been driven out of the Island.
He added: ‘I had suggested a camera aimed at where the birds were nesting but the Environment Department flagged up people’s rights. We have got CCTV all over town and in public parks but it cannot be put there.
‘It is just the amount of people going there which is the problem – they cannot go to the other islands or France so they are going to the Ecréhous instead. If the borders open up more and the French start going there in numbers again then the birds will be gone.
‘The birds have nested but very few chicks have fledged and I am worried that they will soon go the same way as the puffins.
‘It just needs better management. It is a RAMSAR site and is in the Coastal National Park and the government also has obligations under the OSPAR convention.’
Last week, Customs said they would be increasing patrols of the Ecréhous following reports that French mariners were travelling to there and to the Minquiers reef.
The Infrastructure, Housing and Environment Department have been approached for a response but none was received at the time of going to print.