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Boost for Port Hedland turtle monitoring program

Female flatback turtle coming up to nest
Female flatback turtle coming up to nest Care for Hedland

It’s full steam ahead for flatback turtle monitoring in Port Hedland for the next four seasons following the signing of a $100,000 agreement between the Department of Parks and Wildlife and Care For Hedland Environmental Association Inc.

The agreement, funded through the North West Shelf Flatback Turtle Conservation Program, supports the valuable ongoing work of Care for Hedland’s award-winning flatback turtle monitoring program, which has been running for 12 years.

Parks and Wildlife principal scientist Scott Whiting said turtle monitoring data from Port Hedland, particularly from in and around Cemetery Beach, was important for the department’s turtle conservation work.

“It will provide an additional mainland monitoring site for the Northwest Shelf Flatback Turtle Conservation Program,” he said.

“The flatback turtle is found from the Pilbara region northwards and around the Northern Territory into Queensland waters.

“There is a lack of published time series data on flatback turtles from Western Australia and this information is needed for local and regional management of WA’s flatback population.
“Cemetery Beach is also an interesting site to monitor being located on Port Hedland Harbour, which supports port infrastructure and large ship loading facilities with pressures such as light pollution and ship traffic.”

Dr Whiting said the Care for Hedland’s turtle program was an impressive community program in scale, both in terms of the numbers of volunteers and the length of time monitoring was done and in the standard of the work.

“For data to be useful there has to be consistency in the way it is done and recorded so it is fantastic to work with a group like Care for Hedland that is so committed to the conservation of the flatback turtle,” he said.

Care for Hedland chairperson Kelly Howlett said the funding was a fantastic boost for the program that has been going since 2004.

“We are now gearing up to start our beach track count and 50 nights mark and recapture program of nesting activity starting at the end of October and running through till 1 March 2016,” she said.

“Our program monitors turtles, nests and tracks and these data will be used to determine the distribution and abundance of marine turtles along Cemetery Beach and Pretty Pool Beach during the nesting season.

“We will also be tagging turtles and the tagging team will operate for at least 50 nights during the peak of the nesting season, which runs from 30 October to 28 February.”

Ms Howlett said the teams also noted if hatchlings became disorientated and recorded nesting success as well as disturbance including predator activity, such as foxes, off-road vehicles and inappropriate interactions with turtles.

•    To find out more about Care for Hedland’s Turtle Monitoring Program or to volunteer for the program go to:
•    The North West Shelf Flatback Conservation Program is funded by the Chevron-operated Gorgon Gas Project’s State Environmental Additional Undertaking and is administered by the Department of Parks and Wildlife.

Last modified on Thursday, 01 October 2015 16:12