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Media Release
Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

2 March 2006

2006 - Year of the Sea Turtle

The Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, today called on people from across the South-East Asian region to support an international campaign to conserve sea turtles.

Launched by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) today, the Year of the Turtle – 2006 focuses on the Indian Ocean – South-East Asia region, which contains six of the world’s seven species of marine turtles.

“Australia is home to these six species of sea turtles and supports some of the world’s most important remaining populations,” Senator Campbell said.

“Many of the world’s populations of marine turtles have declined, some to the point of extinction, as a result of incidental deaths in fishing gear, damage to turtle nesting beaches, and unsustainable harvests.

From Australia and Thailand to Oman and South Africa, this campaign pulls 25 countries together under the banner ‘Cooperating to Conserve Marine Turtles: Our Ocean’s Ambassadors’. It is being coordinated by the Secretariat of the Indian Ocean – South-East Asia (IOSEA) Marine Turtle Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

“Australia is a signatory to this Memorandum of Understanding and has been one of its most active supporters,” Senator Campbell said.

“As well as contributing almost $250,000 from the Natural Heritage Trust to the implementation of the MOU over its first three years, Australia has championed greater participation by countries which share turtle migrations.

“Turtles are unique ambassadors of our oceans, linking countries and communities globally.

“They are of cultural, spiritual, traditional and economic importance to Indigenous Australians, are great tourist attractions, and play a significant role in the health of our marine environment. I am pleased to see that Australian primary school children are participating in the year by developing a new turtle education guide.”

Other related projects in Australia funded by the Natural Heritage Trust include satellite tagging to increase our understanding of turtles migratory patterns, and the development of protocols for assisting stranded turtles.

Overseas, activities for the Year include beach and reef clean-ups in Thailand, research in Iran to track turtle movements and underwater film festivals in the Seychelles.

Media Contacts:
Renae Stoikos 02 6277 7640 or 0418 568 434

Commonwealth of Australia