Tagging program unearths rich data
The Department of Parks and Wildlife’s hawksbill turtle tagging program on Rosemary Island in the Dampier Archipelago has reached the end of another successful year of conservation research.
The tagging program, one of the longest-running in WA, is conducted by DPaW and supported by Rio Tinto as part of research into hawksbill turtle population numbers and behaviour patterns.
DPaW Pilbara’s marine conservation officer Joanne King said 29 years in, the program was still giving the department new information on hawksbills.
“This year we recorded 444 turtles over 14 nights, including 134 turtles which had not been recorded before and were subsequently tagged on their front flippers,” she said.
“(Tagging) tells us that the population on Rosemary Island has up to 1000 nesting females. We didn’t know how big the population was when the program started.
“It helps us to monitor the population to see if there’s an impact — a decline or something untoward.”
Ms King said the program mattered because hawksbill turtles were critically endangered worldwide and even in Australia, where they were classified as vulnerable, little was known about them.
“Long-term projects such as this are important as turtles have a complex life cycle and trends in population numbers can be detected over decades, thereby improving management of this threatened species,” she said.
Rio Tinto ports operations general manager Jess Farrell said Rio was involved to help the species’ conservation.
“Rosemary Island supports the largest hawksbill rookery in the Indo-Pacific, so turtle conservation is imperative for the region,” she said.
Anna Vitenbergs and Patrick Distel get ready to measure and tag a hawksbill turtle.