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Another successful year for Rosemary Island hawksbill turtle tagging

A hawksbill turtle tagging program at Rosemary Island in the Pilbara is providing important information about the life cycle of the marine turtle species.

Department of Parks and Wildlife Pilbara region marine conservation officer Joanne King said the tagging program, which began in 1986, was among the longest running programs of its kind in Western Australia.

“Rosemary Island and the Dampier Archipelago support an internationally-significant breeding population of hawksbill turtles and over a two-week period in October each year, Parks and Wildlife staff and local volunteers record their nesting activities on five different beaches,” Ms King said.

“They camp around ‘Hawksbill Hut research station’ and work through the night tagging and recording details about the turtles.

“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.”

The tagging program is supported by Rio Tinto as part of a three-year agreement with the department.

Rio Tinto general manager of port operations Jess Farrell said Rio Tinto was proud to support initiatives which raise awareness about the importance of marine turtle conservation and provide crucial data on turtle populations in the area.

“Rosemary Island supports the largest hawksbill rookery in the Indo-Pacific, so turtle conservation is imperative for the region,” Ms Farrell said.

“This program is important to the sustainability of hawksbill turtles and complements our support for the West Pilbara Turtle Program in Wickham and our internal flatback turtle program on Delambre Island.”

Ms King said tagging was important to identify individual marine turtles. “This could be when they come back to nest, are sighted in their foraging grounds or are found deceased,” she said.

“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.”

The Murujuga Land and Sea Unit provided cultural training to the tagging program participants.

Hawksbill turtles are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and vulnerable under Western Australian legislation.

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