Turtle tracking partnership will improve outlook for species

Published: 03/11/2011

Satellite tags will be attached to five turtles today as part of a research project to track turtle movements in the Great Barrier Reef after their main food source had been compromised by floods and tropical cyclone Yasi.

As part of its Extreme Weather Response Program, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), the Girringun Rangers and James Cook University (JCU) will track green turtles in the Cardwell region to assess their behaviour.

GBRMPA Species Conservation Expert Mark Read said the project would help scientists understand how green turtles use their habitat and the results from this research will help managers consider effective actions to protect turtle populations from additional stress.

"By working with the Girringun Rangers and researchers from JCU we will be able to combine traditional knowledge with scientific information to analyse the effectiveness of current management strategies and possibly improve them further," he said.

"Developing collaborative partnerships like these will aid the protection of these species for the long-term future."

Nywaigi Traditional Owner and CEO of Girringun Aboriginal Corporation Phil Rist said they were taking action to ensure the long-term sustainability of these species.

"We share the local community's concern about these species," he said.

"As Traditional Owners we are actively involved in sea country management, and are looking forward to working with the GBRMPA and JCU on monitoring and research.

"The Great Barrier Reef has been important to our people for over 60,000 years and our involvement in this initiative is just one other way we can continue to directly support it for future generations."

Dr Mark Hamann from JCU's School of Earth and Environmental Sciences will lead the project.  He said it was important to understand more about how turtles responded to cumulative impacts such as loss of food, habitat degradation and increased air temperatures.

"This current situation is unprecedented. We need to see how green turtles react to this so we can prepare for similar conditions in coming wet seasons," he said.

"We know the loss of seagrass is impacting coastal green turtle populations, with unusually high numbers of deaths. We now need to know how the remaining turtles are responding to these conditions." 

Name: GBRMPA Media
Contact: (07) 4750 0846