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Kemp acts to protect marine turtles.

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Media Release Minister for the Environment and Heritage Dr David Kemp

29 July 2003


Kemp Acts to Protect Marine Turtles

Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, today announced a national recovery plan to boost protection for Australia's marine turtles.

"These ancient creatures have lived in the ocean for more than 100 million years," Dr Kemp said. "They are part of our unique natural heritage, with six of the world's seven species living in Australian waters."

Turtles live a long time, grow slowly and may take up to 40 years to reach maturity and reproduce. Their ancient life cycle characteristics make it difficult for them to withstand man-made pollution and the changes to important habitats, especially coral reefs, sea grass beds, mangrove forests and nesting beaches. Other threats include accidental drowning in fishing gear, over-harvesting of turtles and eggs, and predation of eggs and hatchlings by foxes, feral pigs, dogs and goannas.

"The numbers of marine turtles nesting on Australian shores have declined dramatically in the past 25 years," Dr Kemp said. "For example, in 1976 around 3500 loggerhead females nested on the Queensland coast, whereas only 300 nested in 1997.

"This national recovery plan is designed to reverse that decline as a matter of urgency and ensure we restore turtle populations over the next few decades.

"The Australian Government takes the protection of marine turtles very seriously. So far more than $285,000 has been allocated from the Natural Heritage Trust for activities to protect these species."

All marine turtles in Australian Government waters are protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) 1999. Loggerhead and olive ridley turtles are listed as endangered and leatherback, hawksbill, green and flatback turtles are listed as vulnerable.

"The plan recommends the establishment of a national monitoring program to allow better management of stranded turtles and to identify causes of mortality such as disease, damage from fishing fleets and boat strike," Dr Kemp said.

"It seeks to engage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the national recovery effort. I urge the State and Territory governments to establish arrangements with Indigenous communities as a priority, as they are all custodians of significant turtle populations.

"We will be working closely with State and Territory Governments, as turtle feeding and breeding areas are predominantly found in their waters."

The national plan was developed by a team of key stakeholders from State and Territory governments, industry, the Dhimurru Land Management Aboriginal Corporation and Humane Society International. A wide consultation process included Indigenous groups such as the Northern Land Council and the Larrakia Nation, non-government organisations, the fishing industry and the public.

Dr Kemp said a new recovery team will be appointed and will meet soon to put the plan into action. They will work to ensure cooperation with all stakeholders in recovering marine turtle populations in Australia.

A copy of the Marine Turtle Recovery Plan, with maps and pictures, is available on the Environment Australia web site at or by telephoning free-call 1800 803 772.

Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas). Photographer: Robert Thorn

Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas). Photographer: Robert Thorn

Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas). Photographer: Mark Hallam

Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas). Photographer: Arthur Mostead