Australia’s network of marine reserves has proved to be valuable for vulnerable flatback sea turtles.
The Australian flatback (Natator depressus) can be recognized by its very flat shell with no ridges. Adults can reach up to 3.25 feet (99 cm) in length and weigh an average of 198 pounds (90 kg). It is found only in the waters of Papua New Guinea and Australia, where it is listed as Vulnerable under the Australian Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
In a new study, researchers used advanced satellite tracking systems to track more than 70 flatbacks off the northwest Australian coastline. The tracking devices were attached to each turtle’s shell with a flexible harness that detached after about a year. Signals were sent in real-time every time the turtle surfaced to breath.
Using this data, researchers pinpointed a migratory corridor more than 1,000 kilometers long and tens of kilometers wide between the turtles’ breeding colonies and foraging grounds, half of which was located within the Commonwealth Marine Reserve network.
The findings will help improve conservation efforts in the high-use areas located outside of the marine reserves so that this vulnerable species will be protected throughout its range.
To learn more:
- Read the full summary: Australian marine reserves provide safe passageway for endangered species
- See the study: Protected species use of a coastal marine migratory corridor connecting marine protected areas
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