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    Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection and Minister for National Parks and the Great Barrier Reef
    The Honourable Steven Miles

    Protected marine waters keep turtles connected in their annual migration

    Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection and Minister for National Parks and the Great Barrier Reef
    The Honourable Steven Miles

    Friday, January 22, 2016

    Protected marine waters keep turtles connected in their annual migration

    The first substantial study of the migration patterns of breeding male green turtles in Australia has confirmed the value of Queensland’s connected network of marine parks.

    The study was part of the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection’s Queensland Turtle Conservation Project which has been led by EHP Chief Scientist Dr Col Limpus for nearly 40 years.

    Environment Minister Dr Steven Miles said long-standing Queensland Turtle Conservation volunteer Aub Strydom, who conducted the study under the direction of Dr Limpus, had also added to scientists’ understanding of the migratory habits of the iconic residents of the Great Barrier Reef.

    “Aub attached satellite tags to two adult male green turtles at Sandy Cape off Fraser Island during the mating season in November 2014 and tracked them back to their respective foraging areas,” Dr Miles said.

    “Once courtship was over in the Great Sandy Marine Park the tagged turtles headed north to their respective foraging areas in the warmer waters of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

    “One of the turtles returned to his home foraging range in the southern part of Shoalwater Bay while the other turtle kept going until he reached the northern Swain Reefs.

    “There are few areas in the world where threatened marine species can migrate over such large distances and remain within marine protected areas the whole time.

    “Aub’s work has provided an illustration of the importance to migratory species of the connectivity between our separate marine protected areas.”

    Department of Environment and Heritage Protection Chief Scientist Dr Col Limpus said Mr Strydom’s self-funded study had also contributed invaluable information to the Queensland Turtle Conservation Project which has been researching and monitoring Queensland’s turtle populations since 1975.

    “This is the first substantial study into the migration habits of adult male green turtles and it’s continuing to reveal new information into where they go and how long they spend in each separate area,” Dr Limpus said.

    “The study is continuing this year with the tagging of a new batch of green turtles at Sandy Cape and we look forward to receiving the further results of Aub’s work once the turtles head back home to their foraging areas.”

    Dr Miles said the long-term nature of the QTC project was providing the critical data needed to guide policy and management planning to maintain sustainable turtle populations in Queensland.

    “Thanks to the involvement over many years of dedicated volunteers like Aub, the Queensland Government has decades of data upon which to draw when developing policies in response to our changing environment,” he said.

    “As this latest study confirms, there is still so much to learn about the lives of marine turtles once they leave our nesting beaches and grow to adulthood.”

    Mr Strydom joined the QTC volunteer team in the 1990s when he was a lighthouse keeper at Sandy Cape. When the lighthouse closed down he joined the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and continued to be based on Fraser Island.

    “I’ve been fascinated by sea turtles since 1992 when I first saw them arrive and begin courting in the shallows at Sandy Cape, and a few weeks later watched a turtle dig her nest and carefully lay her eggs in the foredunes,” Mr Strydom said.

    “Seeing the tiny hatchlings burst out of the sand and race down to the sea a few months later clinched it for me.

    “After the lighthouse was automated I worked for QPWS on Fraser Island and in Hervey Bay, and then for the EHP Queensland Turtle Conservation Project, including a season at the Mon Repos turtle rookery.

    “Since retiring I come back each year for a bit more – they are always surprising us with something we didn’t know before.

    “Visiting the Mon Repos turtles from December to mid-February to watch the nesting females, and mid-January to early April to see the hatchlings, is the best way to experience an unforgettable magic moment in the life of these ancient creatures.”

    ENDS

     

    Media contact: Katharine Wright 0422 580 342

    Picture captions

    Picture one: The migration paths of the two adult male green turtles tracked in 2014 from Sandy Cape to their respective home foraging areas.

    Picture two: Queensland Turtle Conservation Volunteer Aub Strydom attaches a satellite tag to an adult male green turtle at Sandy Cape as part of the 2015 study.

    Images should be credited to the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection