Turtles ‘resilient’ despite deaths
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"To date, there have been more than 1000 turtle standings in the Great Barrier Reef and most of these were green turtles..."
Image: blublaf/iStockphoto

James Cook University marine turtle ecologist Dr Mark Hamann said the unusually high number of green turtle deaths following Queensland's severe weather events is a concern, but the population will be resilient.

"The numbers of stranded turtles that we're seeing are more than anything we've recorded since 1996 so any spike in injuries and deaths warrants continued investigation," Dr Hamann said.

Dr Hamann is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Marine Turtle Specialist Group and has been monitoring strandings data in conjunction with the Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA).

He said the scale of the issue had been taken out of context.

"Importantly, the number of turtle strandings need to be seen in the context of the whole Great Barrier Reef and not just the coastal strip," he said.

The numbers of green turtles breeding in the southern Great Barrier Reef have been increasing by about four per cent each year, so the population across the whole Great Barrier Reef will persist despite this year's high number of deaths."

"To date, there have been more than 1000 turtle standings in the Great Barrier Reef and most of these were green turtles - which is significantly more than this time in any previous years. I would expect this figure to reach around 1500 before the year's end," he said.

"Certainly, projections of up to 6000 turtle deaths in the coming months are unfounded."

"Importantly, more research into this issue is required. The main impacts have been on coastal populations and together with our partners at DERM we are monitoring green turtles in regions not impacted by the extreme weather."

JCU has been heavily involved in the Australian and Queensland governments' response to the extreme weather events' impact on the Great Barrier Reef.

The research being undertaken at JCU into this issue will be used by DERM and the GBRMPA to inform management actions leading into, and during, the upcoming summer.

Editor's Note: Original news release can be found here.