Marine turtle conservation project

Cape York Natural Resource Management Ltd. was founded in 2010 making it the most recently established regional NRM body in Australia.

The company has recently been working with WWF-Australia and the Northern Gulf Resource Management Group (Ghost Nets Australia Program) on an Ecosystem Based Marine Turtle Conservation Project for Cape York Peninsula. The focus of this project is to establish a holistic approach to marine turtle conservation across Cape York Peninsula with links to the regions marine turtle conservation efforts.

The Hawksbill turtle is susceptible to high levels of pig predation on western Cape York

The project aims to build sustainable and resilient populations of marine turtles in Cape York Peninsula through protecting and improving breeding success, reducing feral animal predation and an ongoing involvement of local Indigenous communities in marine conservation.

Cape York Natural Resource Management CEO Bob Frazer said that working with WWF-Australia and the Northern Gulf Resource Management Group will ensure the best possible outcomes for turtle management on Cape York Peninsula.

“This is an important step to be taking in the preservation of the threatened turtle species in Cape York Peninsula,” Mr Frazer said.

“The holistic approach to management and the collaborative relationships we are working towards will take the efforts to date and build on these to improve the conservation outcomes being achieved through improved collaboration, a clear strategic and consistent ecosystem based approach and better integration of science,” he said.

The project will scope and develop a strategic conservation plan and related investment prospectus for a project that provides a holistic and ecosystem based approach to turtle conservation across Cape York Peninsula that connects with regional conservation activities and improves indigenous engagement, building on efforts undertaken to date.

Cape York provides nesting habitat considered internationally significant for the conservation of Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea), Flatback (Natator depressus), and Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) turtles. The area contains the world’s largest nesting population of the endemic Flatback turtle, Queensland’s entire nesting population of the Olive Ridley and a regionally significant nesting population of Hawksbill turtles. The eastern side of Cape York also provides the world’s largest nesting population of Green turtles (Chelonia mydas). All species can migrate thousands of kilometres to nest in this area.

Cape York also supports Australia’s largest concentration of feral pigs (Sus scrofa).

Olive Ridley, Flatback and Hawksbill turtles nesting on western Cape York are susceptible to high levels of pig predation, impacting on the nesting populations. It has been estimated (Limpus et al. 1993) that loss of egg clutches from feral pigs on Cape York south of the Jardine River was approaching 90%.  Due to high levels of animal predation on nests, there is real concern amongst experts and community members that all three species will become locally extinct within 25-30 years.

Turtle conservation on Cape York Peninsula to date has focused on the west coast through the Cape York Turtle Nest Monitoring Program, now in its sixth year.  Conservation efforts on the east coast have focused on data collection and monitoring.

The Cape York Turtle Nest Monitoring program recently went through an independent review, from this review it was clear that there is a need for holistic, well coordinated and adequately resourced conservation efforts towards marine turtles across Cape York Peninsula, something that has been lacking to date.

Working in partnership with WWF-Australia and Northern Gulf Resource Management Group will ensure the holistic approach to turtle conservation management will bring about the best possible outcomes for these endangered species.