Safety for Sea Turtles in Australia’s Marine Reserve Network

Written by on May 1, 2014 in Marine Life, Sea Turtles

Australia’s network of marine reserves has proved to be valuable for vulnerable flatback sea turtles.

Flatback hatchling.

Flatback hatchling. Photo credit: Purpleturtle57, CC BY-SA 3.0.

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:

Flatbacks return to the beach to nest three times between October and April.

Flatbacks return to the beach to nest three times between October and April. Photo credit: Mackay Region Natural Environment via photopin cc.

Copyright © 2014 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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