The project will determine the status of threatened marine (green, hawksbill and flatback) turtles and dugongs in the Torres Strait and threats to these populations. It also will investigate links between different populations of dugongs and turtles in terms of movement and habitat use. They will also assess the abundance of dugongs in the Torres Strait using aerial surveys.
Working in conjunction with the Torres Strait Regional Authorities (TSRA) Land and Sea Unit and the TSRA Community Ranger program this project will:
Determine the status of green turtles in Torres Strait (sex ratios, patterns of juvenile recruitment, nesting success and hatchling production) using seasonal surveys of green turtle foraging and nesting sites. Foraging sites will vary to cover as many different habitats as possible (e.g. one per year). Nesting sites will include Maizub Kaur (Bramble Cay) and Dowar Island (Mer Group)
Determine the status of hawksbill and flatback turtles in Torres Strait by conducting Iama community and Mabuiag Community seasonal surveys and trial remote camera deployments at Sassie Island and Malu Kiai (Deliverance Island) to quantify nesting events, which are suspected to be declining, and predation levels, which are speculated to be high. Data will then be used in combination with survey data collected by QDERM (Col Limpus) since 1992, and other life history and mortality data to determine a robust account of population status.
Investigate population connectivity of dugong and green turtles using satellite tracking of dugongs caught in the northern section of Torres Strait (i.e. around Biogu), analysis of previous tracking data (from QDERM, CRC TS, MTSRF and AMMC) of turtles and dugongs and collection of skin samples from dugongs and green turtles to strengthen the genetic understanding.
Undertake dugong and turtle aerial surveys in March 2011 and November 2013 of western Torres Strait, including the Dugong Sanctuary and the area west of Orman Reef in association with a parallel survey of the northern GBR.
Analyse historical data to examine patterns of turtle abundance in key areas such as western Torres Strait and the Dugong Sanctuary.