Biodiversity

Species Profile and Threats Database


For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
 
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Vulnerable
Listed marine
Listed migratory - Bonn
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan required, this species had a recovery plan in force at the time the legislation provided for the Minister to decide whether or not to have a recovery plan (19/2/2007).
 
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans Recovery Plan for Marine Turtles in Australia - July 2003 (Environment Australia (EA), 2003ai) [Recovery Plan].
 
Other EPBC Act Plans Threat Abatement Plan for Predation by the European Red Fox (Environment Australia (EA), 1999a) [Threat Abatement Plan].
 
Policy Statements and Guidelines Marine bioregional plan for the Temperate East Marine Region (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC), 2012aa) [Admin Guideline].
 
Marine bioregional plan for the North Marine Region (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC), 2012x) [Admin Guideline].
 
Marine bioregional plan for the North-west Marine Region (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC), 2012y) [Admin Guideline].
 
Marine bioregional plan for the South-west Marine Region (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC), 2012z) [Admin Guideline].
 
Seagrass - A Vulnerability Assessment for the Great Barrier Reef (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), 2011k) [Admin Guideline].
 
Information Sheets Information Sheet - Harmful marine Debris (Environment Australia, 2003ac) [Information Sheet].
 
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument].
 
List of Migratory Species (13/07/2000) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000b) [Legislative Instrument].
 
Declaration under section 248 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of Marine Species (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000c) [Legislative Instrument].
 
State Government
    Documents and Websites
NSW:Death or injury to marine species following capture in shark control programs on ocean beaches - factsheet (NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (NSW DECCW), 2003b) [Information Sheet].
NSW:Green Turtle - profile (NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (NSW DECCW), 2005bj) [Internet].
NT:Threatened Species of the Northern Territory - Green Turtle Chelonia mydas (Taylor, R., R. Chatto & J. Woinarski, 2006a) [Information Sheet].
TAS:Chelonia mydas (Green Turtle): Species Management Profile for Tasmania's Threatened Species Link (Threatened Species Section (TSS), 2014vx) [State Action Plan].
State Listing Status
NSW: Listed as Vulnerable (Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (New South Wales): December 2013 list)
QLD: Listed as Vulnerable (Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Queensland): May 2014 list)
SA: Listed as Vulnerable (National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 (South Australia): June 2011 list)
TAS: Listed as Vulnerable (Threatened Species Protection Act 1995 (Tasmania): September 2012 list)
WA: Listed as Vulnerable (Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 (Western Australia): September 2013 list)
Non-statutory Listing Status
IUCN: Listed as Endangered (Global Status: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: 2013.1 list)
Scientific name Chelonia mydas [1765]
Family Cheloniidae:Testudines:Reptilia:Chordata:Animalia
Species author (Linnaeus,1758)
Infraspecies author  
Reference  
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images
http://www.jcu.edu.au/school/tbiol/zoology/herp/fullsize/ST%20Chelonia%20mydas.jpg ;
http://www.jcu.edu.au/school/tbiol/zoology/herp/fullsize/GC%20Chelodina%20mydas.jpg

The Green Turtle has an olive green, nearly circular or heart-shaped carapace (upper shell) up to 1 m in length. The carapace is usually variegated with brown, reddish-brown and black on the top and whitish or cream underneath. There are four pairs of costal shields (shell plates located on either side of the mid-line) between the centre and outer margin of the upper shell (Cogger 2000; Limpus 1995a).

Hatchlings are shiny black above, and white below. They weigh about 25 g and measure 5 cm (straight carapace length) (Cogger 2000).

Green Turtles nest, forage and migrate across tropical northern Australia. They usually occur between the 20C isotherms (Marquez 1990), although individuals can stray into temperate waters (Cogger et al. 1993). In Australia, the key nesting and inter-nesting areas (where females live between laying successive clutches in the same season) are (DEH 2005a; DEWHA 2008b):

Commonwealth
Elizabeth-Middleton Reefs National Marine Reserve

Queensland
Capricorn and Bunker Island Groups
Raine Island
Curtis Island and Facing Island
Russel Island and Scott Reef
Wellesley Islands
Milman Islet and Boydong Islands
Mon Repos
Murray Islands
Darnley Island (Torres Strait)
Bramble Cay (Torres Strait)
Western Cape York Peninsula
Pisonia Island
North and South Bountiful Islands

Northern Territory
Coburg Peninsula
Between Nhulunbuy and northern Blue Mud Bay (East Arnhem Land)
Groote Island
Offshore Islands including Crocker Island, Goulburn Island
Sir Edward Pellew Islands
Tiwi Islands
Wessel and English Islands
Rocky Island

Western Australia
The Dampier Archipelago
Lacepede Islands
The Ningaloo and Jurabi Coasts
Serrurier Island
Thevenard, Barrow, Lowendal and Montebello Island
Northwest Cape
Exmouth Gulf
Muiron Islands

Moderate numbers of Green Turtles also nest on Ashmore Reef and Cartier Island in the Indian Ocean (Whiting et al. 2000).

Resident Green Turtles have been seen around reefs south of Shark Bay down to around the mouth of the Murchison River at Kalbarri and around the reefs of the Houtman Albrohos Islands (DEC 2007). Large juveniles have also been sighted around Rottnest Island (DEC 2007). Western Australia supports one of the largest Green Turtle populations remaining in the world. This population is estimated to be in the tens of thousands of adult turtles (DEWHA 2008b).

The Lacepede Islands in Western Australia have been identified as critical nesting and internesting habitat for the Green Turtle (Environment Australia 2003ad). They support the largest Green Turtle rookeries in Western Australia with nightly nesting effort numbering in the thousands (Pendoley Environmental 2005, as cited in DEWHA 2008b). The Muiron Islands off North Cape West also support a major Green Turtle rookery (Limpus 2004).

The important foraging grounds and juvenile habitat for Green Turtles in Queensland include the Capricorn and Bunker region of the Great Barrier Reef, the Wellesley Islands, Moreton Bay, Hervey Bay and Sandy Straits, Shoalwater Bay, Cleveland Bay, Princess Charlotte Bay, the inner shelf coral reefs from Howick Reef to Corbett Reef, and the Torres Strait (DEH 2005a).

Green Turtles are found in tropical and subtropical waters throughout the world. They usually remain within the 20°C isotherms (Marquez 1990), although individuals may also stray into temperate waters (Cogger et al. 1993).

There have been severe declines in numbers of Green Turtles in Indonesia, particularly in Bali, where there is now no nesting (Schulz 1984). However, the global population of Green Turtles is estimated to be very large (2.2 million), and most populations in other countries are thought to be increasing (Broderick et al. 1995).

The total Australian population of Green Turtles is estimated to be more than 70 000 individuals, distributed across seven regional populations.

The seven regional populations of Green Turtles in Australia are thought to represent genetically distinct subpopulations, with a very low level of genetic exchange between regions. The seven subpopulations and their estimated numbers of individuals are (DEH 2005a):

  • Southern Great Barrier Reef: around 8000
  • Northern Great Barrier Reef: around 41 000
  • Southern Gulf of Carpentaria: around 5000
  • Western Australia: around 20 000
  • Ashmore and Cartier Reefs: annual influx of nesting females thought to number in the low hundreds
  • Coral Sea: several hundred
  • Scott Reef: unknown.

These subpopulations can be further subdivided into 17 genetically distinguishable breeding stocks (management units), consisting of individual rookeries (breeding colonies) or groups of rookeries that are generally more than 500 km apart (Dethmers et al. 2006).

Preliminary estimates of numbers of nesting Green Turtles in eastern Arnhem Land alone suggest that several thousand Green Turtles breed there annually (Limpus in press, as cited in DEWHA 2008).

The North Region of Australia supports at least two different genetic breeding stocks of Green Turtles (Gulf of Carpenteria and North Great Barrier Reef) (Limpus & Chatto 2004; Limpus in press, as cited in DEWHA 2008). There are three distinct genetic stocks of Green Turtles supported in the NorthWest Region of Australia. These are the North West Shelf stock, the Scott Reef stock and the Ashmore stock (Dethmers et al. 2006).

In Australia, long-term monitoring of nesting Green Turtles at Raine Island and Moulter Cay has shown a decrease in body size of nesting females, and a decline in hatching success since 1996. These declines have been attributed to the rising water table on the island (DEH 2005a, b). In contrast, both the resident (foraging) population and the nesting population of the Southern Great Barrier Reef are increasing strongly (by 11% and 3% per year, respectively: Chaloupka & Limpus 2001).

Although extreme fluctuations in population numbers of Green Turtles have not been recorded, the number of female Green Turtles that come ashore to nest each year fluctuates greatly depending on sea surface temperatures (DEH 2005a; Limpus & Nicholls 1988).

The draft recovery plan for marine turtles found in Australia (DEH 2005b) notes that the Green Turtle occurs in the following reserves:

Queensland

  • Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
  • Moreton Bay Marine Park
  • Mon Repos Conservation Park
  • Capricornia Cays National Park and Capricornia Cays National Park Scientific
  • Great Sandy National Park
  • Swain Reefs National Park
  • Bushy Island National Park
  • Barubbra Island Conservation Park
  • Mouth of Baffle Creek Conservation Park 1 and 2
  • Mouth of Kolan River Conservation Park
  • Percy Islands National Park
  • Raine Island Nature Refuge
  • Sandbanks National Park
  • Denham Group National Park
  • Saunders Islands National Park
  • Sir Charles Hardy Group National Park
  • Clairmont Isles National Park
  • Howick Group National Park

Western Australia

  • Ashmore and Cartier Nature Reserves
  • Ningaloo Marine Park
  • Shark Bay World Heritage Area
  • Dampier Archipelago Nature Reserve
  • Thevenard Island Nature Reserve
  • Barrow Island Nature Reserve
  • Montebello Conservation Park
  • Cape Range Conservation Park
  • Muiron Islands Nature Reserve

Northern Territory

  • Kakadu National Park
  • Coburg Marine Park
  • Gurig Gunalc Barlu National Park
  • Dhimurru Indigenous Protected Area

Coral Sea Islands Territory

  • Coral Sea National Nature Reserve

Cocos Islands

  • Cocos (Keeling) Islands

These reserves protect the feeding and nesting grounds, and inter-nesting habitat (where females occur at non-breeding times) of marine turtles in Australia, including the Green Turtle.

Some Green Turtles that nest on the North West Shelf of Western Australia migrate through Ningaloo Marine Park and feed in Shark Bay Marine Park and Cobourg Marine Park (Pendoley 2005). Green Turtles also occur in Coringa-Herald National Nature Reserve in the Coral Sea (Harvey et al. 2005; IPSTCG 2003).

Green Turtles spend their first five to ten years drifting on ocean currents. During this pelagic (ocean-going) phase, they are often found in association with driftlines and rafts of Sargassum (a floating marine plant that is also carried by currents) (Robins et al. 2002; Poiner & Harris 1996; Carr & Meylan 1980).

Once Green Turtles reach 30 to 40 cm curved carapace length, they settle in shallow benthic foraging habitats such as tropical tidal and sub-tidal coral and rocky reef habitat or inshore seagrass beds. The shallow foraging habitat of adults contains seagrass beds or algae mats on which Green Turtles mainly feed (Musick & Limpus 1997; Poiner & Harris 1996; Robins et al. 2002; Whiting 2000a).

Female Green Turtles vary in their age at maturity depending on the different foraging grounds they occupy. Females may reach sexual maturity at between 25 to 50 years of age (Chaloupka et al. 2001). In one study, 88% of eggs laid hatched successfully (IPSTCG 2003). However, mortality of hatchlings may be high.

To develop successfully, marine turtle eggs must be buried in sand that is aerated (but not exposed), low in salt, high in humidity (but not flooded), and between 25°C and 33°C (DEH 2005a). The sex of the hatchlings is determined by the temperature of the nest, with nests at or below 26°C producing all male hatchlings, and nests at or above 29°C producing all female hatchlings (Miller & Limpus 1981). Nests with intermediate temperatures produce mixed sex hatchlings, depending on the position, and therefore, temperature of individual eggs.

Breeding male and female Green Turtles move from their feeding grounds to areas near nesting beaches for mating. The males then return to their feeding grounds, and the females come up onto the beach to lay their eggs, usually on several different nights (Robins et al. 2002).

In the southern Great Barrier Reef, mating begins in October and nesting occurs between October and March, peaking in January (DEH 2005a; Limpus 1993). Nesting in the northern Great Barrier Reef and in the Ashmore and Cartier Island region occurs all year, with a mid-summer peak (DEH 2005a). In the Gulf of Carpentaria, nesting occurs all year round with a mid-winter peak (Limpus 1995a). In Western Australia, nesting is between November and March, and in the Coral Sea it is between October and April with a peak from November to February. The nesting period of Green Turtles on Scott Reef is unknown (DEH 2005a).

Females lay an average of five clutches of around 115 eggs per season. The inter-nesting interval (time between successive clutches) is 14 days. Eggs are spherical and white, around 4.4 cm in diametre and 47 g in weight (DEH 2005a). The incubation period is 64 days (Limpus 1995a). Female Green Turtles breed every one to nine years. The number of females breeding each year is correlated with the Southern Oscillation Index, which determines sea surface temperatures (Limpus et al. 1994b; Limpus 1995a; Limpus & Nicholls 1988; Limpus & Walter 1980).

Adult Green Turtles eat mainly seagrass and algae, although they will occasionally eat other items including mangroves (Forbes 1994; Limpus & Limpus 2000; Pendoley & Fitzpatrick 1999), fish-egg cases (Forbes 1994), jellyfish (Limpus et al. 1994a) and sponges (Whiting 2000a). Young turtles tend to be more carnivorous than adults (Brand-Gardner et al. 1999; Cogger 2000; Whiting 2000a). During their pelagic phase (while drifting on ocean currents), young Green Turtles also eat plankton (Cogger 2000).

It is estimated that most (and possibly all) of the Green Turtles that nest in north-east Arnhem Land remain in the Gulf of Carpenteria to feed (Kennett et al. 1998).

Green Turtles can migrate more than 2600 km between their feeding and nesting grounds. The average migration distance of turtles nesting on the Great Barrier Reef is approximately 400 km. Individual turtles foraging in the same area do not necessarily take the same migration route (Limpus et al. 1992). Green Turtles tagged during nesting in the southern Great Barrier Reef have been recaptured in foraging grounds in the northern Great Barrier Reef, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia and the Torres Strait. Likewise, turtles nesting in the northern Great Barrier Reef have been recaptured in feeding grounds in the Gulf of Carpentaria, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands (Limpus et al. 1992; 1994c). In Western Australia, Green Turtles tagged during nesting in on Lacepede Island move to foraging grounds in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, Arnhem Land, the Gulf of Carpentaria in Queensland and Indonesia (Prince 1993; Prince 1994b). Satellite tracking has shown that Green Turtles nesting on Barrow Island and Sandy Island (Scott Reef, Western Australia) feed between 200 km and 1000 km from their nesting beaches (Pendoley 2005).

Hatchlings swim actively out to sea, and are then carried passively by currents during their pelagic phase. Juvenile Green Turtles must swim long distances against the current to get back to the coastal habitats where they live as adults (Luschi et al. 2003).

In their foraging habitats, Green Turtles are sedentary in the short and long term (Limpus et al. 1994a; Whiting & Miller 1998).

Females usually remain in shallow water within 5–10 km of the beach between nesting episodes (Pendoley 2005). They can lay on multiple beaches within and between nesting seasons (Limpus et al. 2003).

Marine Turtles are generally surveyed during the nesting season, when they emerge from the sea at night (DEH 2005a). The tracks of Green Turtles, Hawksbill Turtles, and Flatback Turtles are distinguishable from one another. Green Turtle tracks have front flipper marks overlapping their back flipper marks; paired, symmetrical front flipper marks; and a short distance between sets of flipper marks. Flatbacks have only a slight overlap between front and back flipper marks; a straight central line in the sand from dragging the tail tip; and a broad central belly mark. Hawksbill Turtles have front flipper marks equal to or slightly wider than back flippers; back flipper marks widely spaced and curled; and the rear flippers, belly and tail produce a zig-zag pattern due to the turtle's alternating gait (Pendoley 2005).

In Australia, the main current threats to Green Turtles are disturbance (e.g. light disturbance) and habitat damage due to coastal development; by-catch from fisheries and shark control measures; predation on nests; boat strikes; entanglement and ingestion of marine debris; and in some areas, indigenous harvesting (DEWHA 2008; Lanyon et al. 1989). Potential threats include changes to the sea surface temperature, particularly changes to the Southern Oscillation Index, which determines breeding intervals; chance disasters (e.g. oil spills); and feral predator invasions (DEH 2005b).

Disturbance of hatchlings by artificial lights
Hatchling sea turtles emerge from their nests at night and are attracted to the brighter, lower elevation sea horizon and away from shadows from dunes and vegetation. Hatchlings that move towards artificial lights instead of the sea are likely to be killed by predators or exposure, or burned if they are attracted to fire (Pendoley 2005).

A study on the impact of artificial lights on turtles nesting on Barrow Island, the Lowendal Islands and the Montebello Islands complex on the North West Shelf of Western Australia confirmed that sea turtle hatchlings can see ultraviolet and visible light, and respond most strongly to short wavelengths (blue and green) (Pendoley 2005). The threat to hatchlings from lights depends on its wavelength and strength, and the amount of moonlight.

One study (Pendoley 2005) found that the hatchlings of a related sea turtle species (Hawksbill Turtle) were generally attracted to sources of light that were 100 to 200 m away from the nest, but generally moved towards the ocean if the lights were 500 to 800 m away. All lights (at 500 Watt) were found to affect hatchlings at a distance of 200 m. Hatchlings were found to be attracted to short-wavelength lights (UV, blue and green lights) at lower light intensities than to high pressure sodium vapour lights (e.g. streetlights, which emit yellow-orange light) and gas flares (open flames that burn excess gas, emitting mainly long wavelengths). Single 250 W sodium vapour lights that are 200 m away or further had no detectable effect, while 500 W fluorescent lights attracted hatchlings at a distance of 800 m. Some distant offshore lights from pearling vessels and drilling rigs (for example an offshore drilling rig 3.3 km away) were bright enough to affect hatchling movements. Oil and gas processing facilities and offshore vessels on the North West Shelf of Western Australia use mercury vapour, metal halide and fluorescent lamps that emit light concentrated in the short wavelength range that attracts hatchling Green Turtles. On moonlit nights, hatchlings will selectively move to the ocean rather than to gas flares, but flares may attracted them on moonless nights (Pendoley 2005).

Other aspects of coastal development and industry
The number of Green Turtles affected annually from collisions with boats is unknown. However, the effect of shipping and recreational boating is likely to be similar to that of Hawksbill Turtles, with which they share much of their distribution. Hawksbill Turtles migrate close to the ocean surface along the coast and use shipping channels between their breeding and feeding grounds. In eastern Queensland, at least 65 turtles were killed between 1999 and 2002 when they were hit by vessels, a mortality risk comparable to that of trawling without Turtle Excluder Devices in the region. However, Hawksbills are not as frequently struck by boats in Queensland as some other species of turtles (Hazel & Gyuris 2006). The Dampier Archipelago in Western Australia is an important migration route for Hawksbill Turtles and one of the busiest ports in Australia. Migratory pathways north of the Dampier Archipelago are unprotected by conservation reserves, as are those between Scott Reef and the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf in the Northern Territory.

Turtles may also be harmed by seismic discharges during mining and exploration, and habitat damage as a result of pipeline installation, dredging and construction (Pendoley 2005).

Disruptions to nesting beaches can prevent female Green Turtles from nesting and can kill hatchlings. Disruptions include erosion and erosion control measures such as drift fencing; rubbish; recreational vehicles; shoreline developments; marina and jetty developments; beach cleaning; sand compaction and beach nourishment (adding sand) (Robins et al. 2002; US Fish & Wildlife Service 1999).

By-catch
Trawling is responsible for more sea turtle deaths than any other human-related factor (Bisong 2000). In the late 1980s, 5000 to 6000 sea turtles were caught each year as by-catch in the Australian Northern Prawn Fishery (off the north coast of Australia), with a mortality rate of up to 39% (14% from drowning in the net, and 25% from injury or drowning after being returned to the ocean comatose) (Poiner & Harris 1996). Robins (1995) found that around 5 300 turtles are caught in the Queensland East Coast Prawn Fishery each year. However, only 1% to 7% of these turtles die, because the duration of trawls is generally short enough not to drown them (less than 80 minutes). The use of Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) was made compulsory in Queensland in 1999, and in the Australian Northern Prawn Fishery in 2000. Before TEDs were introduced, an average of 0.24 turtles were caught per Banana Prawn trawl, and 0.30 turtles per Tiger Prawn trawl. Since the introduction, the capture rates have dropped to 0.007 and 0.009 turtles per Banana Prawn and Tiger Prawn trawl, respectively. Some turtles are still caught because the TED becomes blocked (e.g. with starfish), small turtles pass through it, or the net is winched up before the turtle has reached the TED. Turtles are also caught in the 'try gear' (small trawls to sample prawn density before the main trawl, which are not required to be fitted with TEDs), but the duration of these captures is short and unlikely to drown turtles (Robins et al. 2002).

Substantial numbers of turtles die during pound netting, gill-netting, purse seine netting and lobster and crab pot trapping, because they are hooked or become entangled in lines. The Australian Tuna and Billfish Longline Fisheries also catch around 400 turtles per year (DEH 2005a).

Shark nets and hook lines around swimming beaches also kill turtles (Robins et al. 2002). Between 1962 and 1998, the Queensland Shark Control Program caught 4300 turtles, with about 20% dying before release (DEH 2005a).

Predation
Introduced and native fauna is known to prey upon marine turtle eggs. Feral pigs, foxes, feral dogs, dingoes, bandicoots and goannas have been identified as predators on marine turtle eggs in parts of mainland Australia, and goannas are thought to be a problem on some islands (Environment Australia 2003ai). The magnitude of the problem is not known across the whole range of marine turtle nesting habitat.

Predation by the European red fox has been identified as a key threatening process. A threat abatement plan has been prepared by the Commonwealth to ameliorate the impact of foxes on native species (Environment Australia 1998b). Feral pigs destroy nests in Queensland (Environment Australia 1998).

Marine debris and pollution
Eating discarded plastic or other debris (e.g. plastic bags, styrofoam beads, packing tape and rope fragments) can cause internal blockage, ulcers, poisoning and suffocation in Green Turtles. Turtles may also be injured or killed if they become entangled in debris. Oil and tar on beaches and on the water surface can choke or poison turtles, or inhibit swimming. Other potentially harmful pollutants include pesticides, heavy metals, organochlorides, and sewage from the land or from boats. These substances can pollute feeding grounds and increase disease in turtles (Robins et al. 2002). Floating debris particularly affects juvenile turtles, because they spend their first years drifting in convergences (rips, fronts and driftlines formed by ocean currents). Such convergences affect debris and young turtles similarly, drawing both into the convergence by downwellings in the open ocean (Carr 1987a).

Discarded fishing nets ('ghost fishing') are responsible for a substantial number of deaths of turtles in Australia (Chatto et al. 1995). Ghost nets are an especially serious problem in the Gulf of Carpentaria, where currents draw them in from the north then circulate them indefinitely. A study in 2005 found around 170 kg of marine debris per kilometre of coast, including more than 400 ghost nets over the whole area. Green Turtles are one of the most frequently caught species in 'ghost nets' and other discarded debris (DEH 2005a; White 2005, as cited in DEH 2005a).

Disease
The incidence of fibropapilloma disease has increased in recent years in southern Queensland populations, with approximately 8% of Green Turtles in Moreton Bay having external symptoms of the disease. The impact of the disease on turtle populations is unknown (Limpus & Miller 1994; Limpus et al. 1994a).

Boatstrike and propeller cuts
In recent decades there has been an increase in the number of turtles killed by collision with vessels and cuts from propellers (Greenland et al. 2004). With an increase in the numbers of vessels being used in coastal waters, injuries to turtles from collisions and propeller cuts from vessels is expected to increase.

Temperature change of nesting beaches and the marine habitat
The temperature of the nest affects the sex ratio of Green Turtle hatchlings. Cooler, more shaded beaches produce more males, while warmer, sunny beaches produce more females. Beaches become heated when cleared of coastal forest, or when heat-absorbing sand is imported for 'beach nourishment' of tourist areas, and potentially through global climate change. These changes result in female-biased populations. Human alteration to the temperature of nest sites can also increase parasites and diseases in the eggs and make some beaches unsuitable for nesting (DEH 2005a; US Fish & Wildlife Service 1999). Climate change scenarios predict reduced nesting habitat for sea turtles through rising sea levels and increased storm erosion. Changing ocean circulation may also disrupt the ocean-going phase of juvenile sea turtles, and the predicted increase in coral bleaching and burning of seagrass habitats will reduce their food resources (DEH 2005a). Sea surface temperatures also have major effects on the frequency of sea turtle breeding (Solow et al. 2002). Changes to the Southern Oscillation Index will have a major effect on Australian breeding populations of Green Turtles.

Hunting
Green Turtles are hunted for food (Limpus 1998). In Australia, they are favoured over other species of marine turtles for their meat (DEH 2005a). The harvest in the Northern Territory is estimated to be in the thousands. In the Torres Strait, between 4000 and 6700 Green Turtles are harvested by Indigenous people each year (Johannes & MacFarlane 1991; Kwan 1991). It has been claimed that indigenous harvest of eggs may be unsustainable in northeast Arnhem Land (Kennett et al. 1998). There are serious concerns that the collective Indigenous harvest of marine turtles within the East marine region is not sustainable (DEW 2007a).

In Indonesia in excess of 20 000 Green Turtles are killed annually and the species has suffered huge declines (Limpus 1995b; Putra 1997). Around 100 000 Green Turtles are harvested annually in the region including Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands, Fiji and Vanuatu. Heavy egg harvests still occur in Malaysia and Thailand (Limpus 1995b).

Reducing bycatch and harm to marine turtles
No commercial harvesting of sea turtles is permitted in Australia (DEH 2005a). The Queensland Commercial Fisherman's Organisation, the Queensland Department of Primary Industries, the Australian Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, and the Australian Nature Conservation Agency have together published a code of fishing ethics regarding the accidental capture of sea turtles (Robins et al. 2002). The recommendations of this code include:

  • No trawling within two to three nautical miles of major nesting beaches during the turtle nesting season.
  • Limit the duration of trawls to less than 90 minutes in areas with high turtle numbers to minimise the number of netted turtles that drown.
  • If turtles are caught, handle live and active individuals gently, and return them to the water as soon as possible. Apply the recommended recovery procedure to comatose turtles.
  • Participate in research programs on the incidental capture rate and the effectiveness of turtle excluder devices, and forward information on any tagged turtles caught to the Queensland Southern Fisheries Centre.

Shorter trawls reduce the chance of turtles drowning and being injured, and Turtle Excluder Devices reduce the number of turtles caught. Since the use of Turtle Excluder Devices was made compulsory in the Australian Northern Prawn Fishery in 2000, the catch of sea turtles has declined from around 5000 to around 200 per year. The death rate of captured turtles has also nearly halved, from around 40% to 22%, because of improved turtle handling procedures and the fact that most turtles are now caught when the net is winched up, and spend little time in the net (Robins et al. 2002).

A recovery procedure has been developed to revive sea turtles that have been caught in nets and brought on board in a comatose state. Comatose turtles (which appear to be lifeless and not breathing) will drown if returned to the water. They may recover if the rear flippers are raised about 20° off the deck, and the turtle is supported, kept damp and shaded for 24 hours. This allows water to drain from the lungs. A 'turtle recovery procedure' brochure published by the Queensland Commercial Fisherman's Organisation and the Queensland Department of Primary Industry explains how to do this. A modification of the procedure involves placing a small plastic pipe into the turtle's windpipe and blowing gently. Around half of the turtles tested with this technique when they appeared to be dead recovered (Robins et al. 2002).

Commonwealth By-catch Action Plans state that the catch of marine turtles must be reported, and By-catch Reduction Devices (e.g. Turtle Excluder Devices) must be used. By-catch Action Plans have been developed for the following fisheries (DEH 2005a):

  • Australia's Tuna and Billfish Longline and minor line fisheries
  • Northern Prawn Fishery
  • Torres Strait Prawn Fishery.

In Western Australia, By-catch Action Plans have also been developed for the following fisheries:

  • Shark Bay Scallop Fishery
  • Shark Bay Prawn Fishery
  • Exmouth Gulf Prawn Fishery
  • Nickol Bay Prawn Fishery
  • Onslow Prawn Fishery
  • Kimberley Prawn Fishery
  • Broome Prawn Fishery
  • Abrolhos Islands and Mid-West Trawl Fishery.

In Australia, longline fishermen have been issued with de-hooking devices to release turtles that have been hooked in the mouth with minimum injury (DEH 2005a). Changing the size and shape of longline hooks and the type of bait can reduce turtle by-catch while still being commercially viable. For example, 4.9 cm circle hooks baited with fish caught fewer turtles than 4 cm J-shaped hooks in one longline fishery in the Atlantic Ocean. Turtles that were caught were also less likely to swallow the hooks (they were hooked in the mouth instead).

Other strategies being assessed that might reduce turtle by-catch are:

  • Submerging hooks more deeply
  • Retrieving lines faster from the water during the day
  • Avoiding areas with the greatest risk of by-catch through communication programmes
  • Seasonal fishery closures (Gilman et al. 2006).

Pollution and Marine Debris
Many traditional owner groups, community rangers, and Native Title representative organisations in Northern Australia are involved in projects to assess and reduce marine debris. These include the Dhimurru Land Management Aboriginal Corporation of the Gulf of Carpentaria, and more than ten other communities in the Gulf of Carpentaria and Torres Strait (DEH 2005a, b).

Artificial lights
Pendoley (2005) recommended the following methods to reduce harm to turtle hatchlings from light pollution:

  • Replacing short-wavelength lights with longer wavelength lights
  • Shielding, lowering or directing light sources onto work areas
  • Filtering existing lights to increase the wavelength (e.g. encasing fluorescent lights in yellow filter material)
  • Relocating lights away from nesting beaches
  • Painting equipment and vessels with dark, non-reflective paint to reduce light reflected into the sky
  • Embedding street lighting
  • Using motion sensors or timers in the vicinity of turtle nesting beaches so that lights are not constantly turned on.

Limpus (2002) proposed a 1.5 km buffer zone to protect sea turtle hatchlings from artificial lights. Embedding light-emitting diodes in the roadway pavement instead of using overhead lighting near turtle nesting beaches has been found to be effective (Bertolotti & Salmon 2005).

Reducing egg and hatchling loss
Baiting for nest predators near rookeries (hatchling aggregations) reduces predation on turtle nests (DEH 2005a). Protective cages over nests are sometimes used. However, galvanized steel cages are magnetic and could alter turtles' subsequent ability to navigate back to their nesting beach as adults (Irwin et al. 2004). The use of non-magnetic materials has been recommended (Irwin et al. 2004).

Gnaraloo Station
Feral animal control has been implemented along the Gnaraloo coast (which is part of Ningaloo Reef) each season between 2008/09 and 2011/12. The program targeted Foxes, Cats and Dogs with 1080 baiting immediately behind coastal rookeries, in surrounding hinterland, beaches adjacent to the rookeries and general targeted baiting in the remainder of Gnaraloo Station (i.e. around water sources) (Butcher & Hattingh 2012). In 2011/12, this program achieved zero mortalities from animal predation (Butcher & Hattingh 2012). It is recommended that the program continues in the future, with annual baiting during the turtle breeding season (November-April) and prior to the fox breeding season (May) (Butcher 2008, 2009, 2009a, 2010, 2011; Butcher & Hattingh 2012).
Government funded community grants
Mapoon Aboriginal Shire Council received $10 840 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2005–06, part of which was for the engagement of community members and volunteers to work with Rangers in protecting Green Turtle nesting sites from feral pig predation, and the removal of ghost fishing nets from three Mapoon beaches, western Cape York.

Ocean Watch Australia Ltd (NSW) received $24 860 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2003–04 for demonstration of de-hookers and line-cutters to fishermen to increase industry's awareness of their application, provision of the devices and monitoring of experiences, communication of project outcomes to fishermen and production of an instruction video, aiming to reduce by-catch fatalities for the Green Turtle.

Marine bioregional plans have been developed for four of Australia's marine regions - South-west, North-west, North and Temperate East. Marine Bioregional Plans will help improve the way decisions are made under the EPBC Act, particularly in relation to the protection of marine biodiversity and the sustainable use of our oceans and their resources by our marine-based industries. Marine Bioregional Plans improve our understanding of Australia's oceans by presenting a consolidated picture of the biophysical characteristics and diversity of marine life. They describe the marine environment and conservation values of each marine region, set out broad biodiversity objectives, identify regional priorities and outline strategies and actions to address these priorities. Click here for more information about marine bioregional plans.

The Green Turtle has been identified as a conservation value in the Temperate East (DSEWPaC 2012aa), North (DSEWPaC 2012x), North-west (DSEWPaC 2012y) and South-west (DSEWPaC 2012z) marine regions. See Schedule 2 of the North-west Marine Bioregional Plan (DSEWPaC 2012y), the North Marine Bioregional Plan (DSEWPaC 2012x) and the Temperate East Marine Bioregional Plan (DSEWPaC 2012aa) for regional advice. Maps of Biologically Important Areas have been developed for green turtle in the Temperate East (DSEWPaC 2012aa), North (DSEWPaC 2012x) and North-west (DSEWPaC 2012y) marine regions and may provide relevant additional information. Go to the conservation values atlas to view the locations of these Biologically Important Areas. The "species group report card - marine reptiles" for the South-west (DSEWPaC 2012z), North-west (DSEWPaC 2012y), North (DSEWPaC 2012x) and Temperate East (DSEWPaC 2012aa) marine regions provide additional information.

The following four management plans provide guides to threat abatement, conservation and research strategies for the Green Turtle:

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Biological Resource Use:Fishing and Harvesting Aquatic Resources:Indigenous hunting and harvesting Recovery Plan for Marine Turtles in Australia - July 2003 (Environment Australia (EA), 2003ai) [Recovery Plan].
Biological Resource Use:Fishing and Harvesting Aquatic Resources:Mortality due to capture, entanglement/drowning in nets and fishing lines Recovery Plan for Marine Turtles in Australia - July 2003 (Environment Australia (EA), 2003ai) [Recovery Plan].
Biological Resource Use:Fishing and Harvesting Aquatic Resources:Overfishing, competition with fishing operations and overfishing of prey fishing Recovery Plan for Marine Turtles in Australia - July 2003 (Environment Australia (EA), 2003ai) [Recovery Plan].
Climate Change and Severe Weather:Habitat Shifting and Alteration:Habitat loss, modification and/or degradation Northern Rivers Regional Biodiversity Management Plan (NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (NSW DECCW), 2010p) [State Recovery Plan].
Climate Change and Severe Weather:Sea level rise:Inundation associated with climate change Inundation study (Environmental Resources Information Network, 2007) [Database].
Ecosystem/Community Stresses:Indirect Ecosystem Effects:Loss and/or fragmentation of habitat and/or subpopulations Northern Rivers Regional Biodiversity Management Plan (NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (NSW DECCW), 2010p) [State Recovery Plan].
Human Intrusions and Disturbance:Human Intrusions and Disturbance:Human induced disturbance due to unspecified activities Northern Rivers Regional Biodiversity Management Plan (NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (NSW DECCW), 2010p) [State Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or predation Vulpes vulpes (Red Fox, Fox) Draft Recovery Plan for Marine Turtles in Australia (Env. Aust, 1998) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Grazing, tramping, competition and/or habitat degradation Sus scrofa (Pig) The threat posed by pest animals to biodiversity in New South Wales (Coutts-Smith, A.J., P.S. Mahon, M. Letnic & P.O. Downey, 2007) [Management Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Predation, competition, habitat degradation and/or spread of pathogens by introduced species Northern Rivers Regional Biodiversity Management Plan (NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (NSW DECCW), 2010p) [State Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Presence of pathogens and resulting disease Chelonia mydas in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006ev) [Internet].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Problematic Native Species:Negative impact from animals Recovery Plan for Marine Turtles in Australia - July 2003 (Environment Australia (EA), 2003ai) [Recovery Plan].
Pollution:Excess Energy:light pollution Recovery Plan for Marine Turtles in Australia - July 2003 (Environment Australia (EA), 2003ai) [Recovery Plan].
Pollution:Garbage and Solid Waste:Ingestion and entanglement with marine debris Recovery Plan for Marine Turtles in Australia - July 2003 (Environment Australia (EA), 2003ai) [Recovery Plan].
Pollution:Pollution:Deterioration of water and soil quality (contamination and pollution) Recovery Plan for Marine Turtles in Australia - July 2003 (Environment Australia (EA), 2003ai) [Recovery Plan].
Northern Rivers Regional Biodiversity Management Plan (NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (NSW DECCW), 2010p) [State Recovery Plan].
Residential and Commercial Development:Residential and Commercial Development:Habitat modification (clearance and degradation) due to urban development Recovery Plan for Marine Turtles in Australia - July 2003 (Environment Australia (EA), 2003ai) [Recovery Plan].

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Brand-Gardner, S.J., J.M. Lanyon & C.J. Limpus (1999). Diet selection by immature green turtles, Chelonia mydas, in subtropical Moreton Bay, South-East Queensland. Australian Journal of Zoology. 47 (2):181-191.

Broderick, D., C. Moritz, J.D. Miller, M. Guinea, R.I.T. Prince & C.J. Limpus (1995). Genetic studies of the hawksbill turtle Eretmochelys imbricata: evidence for multiple stocks in Australian waters. Pacific Conservation Biology. 1:123-132.

Butcher, M. (2008). Fox Control Program for Gnaraloo Station. Turtle Predation Minimisation Project (For turtle breeding season 2008/09). December 2008. [Online]. Animal Pest Management Services. Available from: http://www.gnaraloo.com.au.

Butcher, M. (2009). Fox Management Project. Technical Report for Gnaraloo (For turtle breeding season 2009/10). November 2009. [Online]. Animal Pest Management Services. Available from: http://www.gnaraloo.com.au.

Butcher, M. (2009a). Fox Control Program for Gnaraloo Station. Turtle Predation Minimisation Project (For turtle breeding season 2008/09). January 2009. [Online]. Animal Pest Management Services. Available from: http://www.gnaraloo.com.au.

Butcher, M. (2010). Fox Control Program for Gnaraloo Station. Turtle Predation Minimisation Project (For turtle breeding season 2009/10). February 2010. [Online]. Animal Pest Management Services. Available from: http://www.gnaraloo.com.au.

Butcher, M. (2011). Gnaraloo Fox Control Program. Report 2010/11, Protection of sea turtle rookeries on the Gnaraloo coast. June 2011. [Online]. Animal Pest Management Services. Available from: http://www.gnaraloo.com.au.

Butcher, M. & K. Hattingh (2012). Gnaraloo Feral Animal Control Program. Final Report 2011/12. 30 June 2012. [Online]. Animal Pest Management Services and Gnaraloo Station Trust, Western Australia. Available from: http://www.gnaraloo.com.au.

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Chaloupka, M. & C. Limpus (2001). Trends in the abundance of sea turtles resident in southern Great Barrier Reef waters. Biological Conservation. 102:235-249.

Chaloupka, M., C. Limpus & J. Miller (2001). Green Turtle somatic growth dynamics in a spatially disjunct Great Barrier Reef metapopulation. Coral Reefs. 23:325-335.

Chatto, R., M.L. Guinea & S. Conway (1995). Sea turtles killed by flotsam in northern Australia. Marine Turtle Newsletter. 69:17-18.

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Department of Environment and Heritage (2005b). Issues paper for six species of marine turtles found in Australian waters that are listed as threatened under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. [Online]. Commonwealth Department of Environment and Heritage: Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/recovery/marine-turtles/pubs/issues-paper.pdf. [Accessed: 02-Oct-2007].

Department of the Environment and Heritage (2005b). Draft Recovery Plan for marine turtles found in Australia: Olive Ridley Turtle Lepidochelys olivacea, Loggerhead Turtle Caretta caretta, Flatback Turtle Natator depressus, Green Turtle Chelonia mydas, Hawksbill Turtle Eretmochelys imbricata & Leatherback. [Online]. Canberra: Commonwealth Department of Environment and Heritage. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/recovery/marine-turtles/pubs/marine-turtle.pdf.

Department of the Environment and Water Resources (DEW) (2007a). Draft East Marine Bioregional Plan: Bioregional Profile: A Description of the Ecosystems, Conservation Values and Uses of the East Marine Region.

Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) (2008b). North-West Marine Bioregional Plan: Bioregional Profile: A Description of the Ecosystems, Conservation Values and Uses of the North-West Marine Region. [Online]. Canberra: DEWHA. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/coasts/mbp/publications/north-west/bioregional-profile.html.

Dethmers, K.M., D. Broderick, C. Moritz, N. Fitzsimmons, C. Limpus, S. Lavery, S. Whiting, M. Guinea, R.I.T. Prince & R. Kennett (2006). The genetic structure of Australasian Green Turtles (Chelonia mydas): exploring the geographical scale of genetic exchange. Molecular Ecology. 15:3931-3946.

Environment Australia (1998b). Draft Recovery Plan for Marine Turtles in Australia. Environment Australia: Canberra.

Environment Australia (EA) (2003ai). Recovery Plan for Marine Turtles in Australia - July 2003. [Online]. Canberra: Environment Australia. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/coasts/publications/turtle-recovery/index.html.

Forbes, G.A. (1994). The diet of the green turtle in an algal-based coral reef community-Heron Island, Australia. In: Schroeder, B. A. & B. E. Witherington, eds. NOAA Technical Memorandum, NMFS-SEFSC-341. Page(s) 57-59. Proceedings of the Thirteenth Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation. National Technical Information Service: Springfield, Virginia.

Gilman, E., E. Zollett, S. Beverly, H. Nakano, K. Davis, D. Shiode, P. Dalzell & I. Kinan (2006). Reducing sea turtle by-catch in pelagic longline fisheries. Fish and Fisheries. 7(1):2-23.

Greenland, J.A., C.J. Limpus & K.J. Currie (2004). Queensland Marine Wildlife Stranding and Mortality Database Annual Aeport, 2001-2002, III: Marine Turtles. [Online]. Queensland Environmental Protection Agency. Available from: http://www.epa.qld.gov.au/publications/p01293aa.pdf/Queensland_marine_wildlife_stranding_and_mortality_database_annual_report_20012002_III_Marine_turtles.pdf.

Harvey, T., S. Townsend, N. Kenyon & G. Redfern (2005). Monitoring of Nesting Sea Turtles in the Coringa-Herald National Nature Reserve (1991/92-2003/04 nesting seasons). A Report for the Department of the Environment and Heritage. Indo-Pacific Sea Turtle Conservation Group, Inc.

Hazel, J. & E. Gyuris (2006). Vessel-related mortality of sea turtles in Queensland, Australia. Wildlife Research. 33:149-154.

Indo-Pacific Sea Turtle Conservation Group (IPSTCG) (2003). 2002-2003 Annual Report for the Department of Environment & Heritage. Department of Environment & Heritage: Canberra.

Irwin, W.P., J.H. Amy & K.J. Lohman (2004). Magnetic field distortions produced by protective cages around sea turtle nests: unintended consequences for orientation and navigation?. Biological Conservation. 118:117-120.

Johannes, R.E. & J.W. MacFarlane (1991). Traditional Fishing in the Torres Strait Islands. Page(s) 268. Hobart CSIRO.

Kennett, R., N. Munungurritj & D. Yunupingu (1998). 'Migration Patterns of Marine Turtles in the Gulf of Carpentaria, Northern Australia: Implications for Aboriginal Management'. Wildlife Research. 31(3):241- 248.

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Kwan, D. (1991). The turtle fishery of Daru, Western Province, Papua New Guinea: insights into the biology of the Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) and implications for management. Page(s) 230. M.Sc. Thesis. Townsville, James Cook Uni.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Chelonia mydas in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Sat, 26 Jul 2014 18:07:36 +1000.