Tagging program vital for turtle data
A hawksbill turtle tagging program at Rosemary Island in the Pilbara is providing important information about the life cycle of the marine species.
The recently completed 2016/ 17 program noted an increase in the number of hatched nests during the two-week monitoring period, providing an exciting opportunity for volunteers to see hatchlings early in the nesting/ hatching season, which runs from October-April.
Department of Parks and Wildlife Pilbara marine conservation officer Joanne King said the tagging program, which began in 1986, was among the longest-running programs of its kind in WA.
“DPaW staff and local volunteers record their nesting activities on five different beaches, camping on the island and working through the night tagging and recording details,” she said.
“This year we recorded 507 turtles in 14 nights, including 157 which had not been recorded before. Long-term projects such as this are important as turtles have a complex life cycle that spans many decades and many hundreds of kilometres and these programs allow counts to occur on beaches where individuals show high fidelity.”
Ms King said tagging to identify individual marine turtles throughout their breeding life allowed a more in-depth understanding of how the population functioned.
Rio Tinto has supported the Rosemary Island Turtle Tagging program since 2014.
Rio Tinto Dampier Ports general manager Jess Farrell said it provided crucial data on turtle populations in the area.
“Rosemary Island supports the biggest hawksbill rookery in the Indo-Pacific, so turtle conservation is imperative for the region,” she said. “This program is important to the sustainability of hawksbills and complements our support for the West Pilbara Turtle Program in Wickham and our flatback turtle program on Delambre Island.”
Hawksbill turtles are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and vulnerable under WA legislation.
A hawksbill turtle makes a rare daytime appearance during the breeding season at Rosemary island.