Transmitters fitted to green sea turtles, along with genetic
testing, show that the turtles spend most of their lives
within the Gulf of Carpentaria
Photo: Rod Kennett
Green turtles are generally known for making long-distance
migrations, often covering hundreds or even thousands of kilometres
of national and international waters. However, recent studies have
shown that green turtles found in the Gulf of Carpentaria are
‘homebodies’—spending their entire lives within
the Gulf’s waters.
Researchers from the University of Canberra, Kiki Dethmers and
Nancy FitzSimmons, analysed the family history of green
turtles of the Gulf of Carpentaria, by using skin samples that were
collected by a number of Indigenous communities.
The genetic results from that research agreed with another study
that was jointly undertaken by the Dhimurru Land Management
Aboriginal Corporation and Charles Darwin University, which tracked
the movements of turtles using satellite radio transmitters.
Both the genetic and tracking results show that green turtles of
the Gulf of Carpentaria mate, nest and spend most of their lives
within the Gulf, and rarely—if ever—migrate outside of
the region. The results from these studies are important for the
management of green turtles in the Gulf.
While the harvest of green turtles in Indonesia may have little
or no impact on local populations, if the number of green turtle
decline in the Gulf, it may take many years (even hundreds) before
new turtles arrive from outside waters and rebuild the population.
Most importantly, it means that work currently being undertaken by
Indigenous communities in the Gulf, such as the Dugong and Marine
Turtle Project (North Australia Indigenous Land and Sea Management
Alliance) and the Carpentaria Ghost Net Programme, will have direct
benefits for local green turtle populations and the people who
depend on them. — Sasha Kiessling
From Kantri Laif, Issue 3, 2007.