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Marine turtle recovery newsletter

1st Edition
Department of the Environment and Heritage, June 2004


Illustration of turtle

Welcome readers

As Chair, of the National Turtle Recovery Group I am pleased to introduce to you the 1st edition of the Marine Turtle Recovery Newsletter.

There is an enormous effort underway to protect marine turtles in Australia, however, to date information on these efforts has not been readily available. I hope that by producing this newsletter, we will be able to bring together information on what's going on in Australia, and internationally, to protect marine turtles.

I hope this newsletter will inspire more people to get involved in the recovery effort for these magnificent creatures, as well as further motivating those of you already involved. The newsletter will be available on the DEH website ( and will also be distributed electronically by members of the National Turtle Recovery Group.

I look forward to your input for future editions, and I hope you enjoy reading the inaugural edition of the Marine Turtle Recovery Newsletter.

Robyn Bromley

A Recovery Plan for Marine Turtles

A turtle recovering from floating disease, taken by Trevor Ierino

A turtle recovering from floating disease, taken by Trevor Ierino

In July 2003 the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, released the Recovery Plan for Marine Turtles in Australia. The Recovery Plan identifies six objectives that aim to aid the recovery of marine turtles. These are:

  1. Reduce the mortality of marine turtles and, where appropriate, increase natural survivorship, including through developing management strategies with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities for the sustainable use of marine turtles.
  2. Develop programs and protocols to monitor marine turtle populations in Australia, assess the size and status of those populations and the causes of their mortality and address information gaps.
  3. Manage factors that affect marine turtle nesting.
  4. Identify and protect habitats that are critical for the survival of marine turtles.
  5. Communicate the results of recovery actions and involve and educate stakeholders.
  6. Support and maintain existing agreements and develop new collaborative programs with neighbouring countries for the conservation of shared turtle populations.

If you are interested in viewing the Recovery Plan it can be downloaded from:

Implementing the recovery plan and a project to watch

This year a number of projects to implement the Recovery Plan are being funded through the Australian Government's $3 billion Natural Heritage Trust (NHT). One of the projects is being run by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), and involves satellite tracking olive ridley turtles. In this project five olive ridley turtles nesting on the Tiwi Islands in the Northern Territory have had satellite transmitters attached to their shells so that we can get a better understanding of what they do and where they go after nesting. The satellite transmitters send signals to the satellites when the turtles surface, allowing the researchers to map their movements. Local primary school children of the Tiwi Islands have named four of the five turtles in the study, and one has been named Mel after the presenter on the morning TV program Sunrise.

The first turtle to have a satellite transmitter fitted was named Milika by the Milikapiti School at Snake Bay on Melville Island. In Tiwi language Milika means 'the sea around our islands'. Since being fitted with the satellite transmitter Milika has travelled some 390km in a southerly direction and is believed to be now feeding approximately 60km off the Kimberly coast. The movements of all five of the olive ridley turtles being tracked can be viewed online at:

This is a great project to help educate the public on olive ridley turtles, as well as to gather some crucial data on the migration routes and habits of the species.

Watch this space for articles on the other projects being funded by the NHT - they will appear in future editions.

Improving fisheries - reducing turtle bycatch

Green turtle, by Robert Thorn

Green turtle, by Robert Thorn

Much work has been done to improve fisheries and reduce turtle bycatch. Introducing Turtle Excluder Devices in the Northern Prawn Fishery has reduced turtle bycatch by 95 per cent.

A project to inform longline fishers about how to reduce marine turtle mortality has been funded though the Fisheries Research Development Corporation (FRDC). Workshops have been held with fishers to develop their understanding of marine turtle biology, conservation, bycatch mitigation research, the use of de-hooking and line cutting equipment and handling techniques onboard boats. Thirteen de-hooking and line cutting kits have been distributed throughout the fleet and reports coming back on their use are positive.

If you have some innovative ideas about how fishing gear may be designed to further reduce turtle bycatch a competition running at the moment gives you the chance to win $25 000 cash as well as help getting it onto the market. Check out the competition details at:

A great marine turtle web site worth checking out

The Indian Ocean South East Asian (IOSEA) Marine Turtle Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) website is a must-see for those interested in regional efforts to conserve marine turtles. It includes information on marine turtles and projects being carried out throughout the Indian Ocean and South-East Asian region. The site also has an excellent interactive marine turtle mapping system that can create tailored maps of the nesting sites and migratory patterns of marine turtles. Check it out at:

The national turtle recovery group - identifying priorities

The National Turtle Recovery Group has the job of advising the Department of Environment and Heritage on the priority actions to implement the Recovery Plan. It met in Canberra for the first time on 15 April 2004 and will meet again later this year. The Group has representatives from the Australian Government, State and Territory Governments, the Indigenous and scientific communities, the commercial fishing industry, as well as non-government conservation organisations.

At the meeting three priority areas for implementation of the Recovery Plan were identified. These were:

  1. Developing national protocols for the monitoring of marine turtle populations and mortality caused by human activities. A Technical Working Group was established at the meeting to start work on developing national protocol for the monitoring of marine turtles.
  2. Delivering targeted information and awareness raising programs to Indigenous communities on human-related threats to marine turtles, with a focus on ensuring harvest is sustainable.
  3. Maintaining fisheries as a priority area, with the industry encouraged to continue to improve reporting of interactions with marine turtles (including mortality); and for feedback on the success of projects to reduce mortality to be made available to all parties (including industry).

The National Turtle Recovery Group will meet again later in 2004, and hopes, among other things, to consider a report from the Technical Working Group on developing monitoring protocols for turtle research.

A taskforce on marine turtle and dugong populations

The Marine and Coastal Committee (MACC) is a Committee under the Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council. Earlier this year the MACC established a Taskforce on Dugong and Turtle Populations. The Taskforce has been created to enable the Australian Government and States and Territories to develop a national approach to the sustainable management of Indigenous harvest of turtle and dugong. As an NRM Ministerial Council Taskforce, its membership is drawn from government departments and agencies with an interest in environment, natural resource management and Indigenous issues. One of the first priorities of the Taskforce has been to start identifying how Indigenous communities and scientific experts can be involved in the development of the national approach.

Contact details

Migratory and Marine Species Section
Department of the Environment and Heritage
GPO Box 787
Canberra ACT 2601


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