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Saving the Green Sea Turtles on Australia’s Raine Island

15th February 2017

A little known island plays a very important role in the survival of green sea turtles. Sir David Attenborough: “A marine paradise that plays host to one of the most spectacular ocean migrations on the planet. This is Raine Island…”

rain-island-green-turtles_image-courtesy-of-andrew-dustanRaine Island (situated on the outer edges of the Great Barrier Reef, North Queensland), is a unique and important nesting site for green turtles. As many as 60,000 female green turtles make the journey from their feeding grounds to lay their eggs on this tiny island. During the nesting season it is one of the world’s largest populations of green turtles. They swim from as far afield as Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Torres Strait and the West Pacific.

Unfortunately this annual event is under threat. Both adults and eggs are dying. Rising sea levels have caused tidal inundation, killing the newly laid eggs that cannot survive underwater. The island’s landscape has also changed resulting in as many as 2,000 adult deaths annually from falls and entrapment in rocks. This situation has added to the other threats, such as pollution, habitat loss, boat strikes and over harvesting, which contribute to them being endangered.

green-turtle-hatchlingA five year project to protect and restore the island’s critical habitat began 18 months ago. The Queensland Government, BHP Billiton, the Traditional Owners and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation are collaborating on the AUS$7.95M project. The project aims to ensure the future of key marine species, including green turtles and seabirds. To achieve this their efforts will be focused on beach engineering, sand replenishment, fencing, turtle tagging, remote sensing including video recording and weather stations, tide and sea level monitoring and 3D modelling using GPS survey technology.

The project has been making use of drones to monitor the turtle activity and the initial results are very positive. It is estimated that in the 2015-2016 nesting season at least 400 adults and many hatchlings have been saved by the initial efforts of the project. This number is expected to increase as more of the island is reshaped and pool fencing is extended. This investment will help the survival of the species and allow for more green sea turtle hatchings to swim to some of your favourite diving destinations!

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