Discovered by Frenchman Nicolas Baudin in 1801 and and named in honour of French naturalist Bernard Germain de Lacépède, who described several Australian fish species and wrote the first treatise on cetaceans, the Lacpede Islands are a group of four islands lying 120km (75miles) to the northwest of Broome and separated from the mainland by the Lacepede Channel. East, West, Middle and Sandy Islands are all small, low spits of coarse sand and coral rubble, lying on top of a platform reef and total 180.2ha. The islands are an A Class Nature Reserve administed by the Department of Environment and Conservation, and treeless with some low vegetation. The dominant species is Spinifex longifolius, with Cenchrus ciliaris grasslands on East Island, some areas of Sporobolus virginicus and a succulent shrubland of Tecticornia/Neobassia around the lagoon edges.
The islands are an A Class Nature Reserve administed by the Department of Environment and Conservation. Black rats were eradicated in 1986 leading to the recolonization of the island by small terns.
The Lacepedes are Western Australia’s most important breeding habitat for Green Turtles (Chelonia mydas), and have been named by BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area (IBA) because they support over 1% of the world populations of Brown Boobies and Roseate Terns. The breeding colony of Brown Boobies, of up to 18,000 breeding pairs, is possibly the largest in the world. Up to 20,000 Roseate Terns have been recorded there.
Other birds breeding on the islands include Masked Boobies, Australian Pelicans, Lesser Frigatebirds, Eastern Reef Egrets, Silver Gulls, Crested, Bridled and Lesser Crested Terns, Common Noddies, and Piedand Sooty Oystercatchers. Visiting waders include Grey-tailed Tattlers, Ruddy Turnstones, Great Knots and Greater Sand Plovers. Black rats were eradicated in 1986 leading to the recolonization of the island by small terns.
In the nineteenth century the islands were mined extensively for guano, both by legitimate West Australian companies, and also illegal trading ships from overseas, including the United States.