A green turtle (Chelonia mydas) swimming in the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland © Troy Mayne

A green turtle (Chelonia mydas) swimming in the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland © Troy Mayne

Green turtle numbers increase by nearly 150% south of Bowen

23 May 2019

  • great barrier reef
  • marine turtles


 On World Turtle Day (23 May) some good news about turtles.

A study has shown the green turtle population which forages in Edgecumbe Bay (south of Bowen) is rebuilding at a rate of 8.3% each year.

It’s estimated the population has gone from 1,756 green turtles in 2003 to 4,329 green turtles in 2014.

In 12 years the population has increased by 146.5%

Their overall survival rate is 90% and they’re growing, on average, by 1.20 cm each year.

This population increase does not tell the whole story for green turtles on the Great Barrier Reef. They are divided into two main populations: southern and northern.

The southern GBR genetic stock appears to be doing better than the northern GBR turtles, which face greatly reduced hatchling production at their main turtle rookery on Raine Island and a reduction in male turtle numbers because of rising sand temperatures.

Although Edgecumbe Bay is in the north, the vast majority of green turtles foraging there are from the southern GBR genetic stock.

The good news about the southern GBR turtles at Edgecumbe Bay was revealed in a published research paper by the Gudjuda Reference Group, the World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia, and the Queensland government.

In Townsville for a World Turtle Day celebration, WWF-Australia Head of Living Ecosystems Darren Grover said it was an encouraging sign.

“As evidenced by the plight of northern green turtles, these majestic creatures still face many challenges. But this study shows that given the right conditions green turtles can rebound,” said Mr Grover.

Gudjuda Indigenous Land and Sea Ranger Program coordinator Eddie Smallwood, a co-author of the paper, said: “This is the first citizen science project to monitor a population of foraging green turtles in the Reef’s north and our rangers were front and centre.

“It’s a great example of Traditional knowledge and modern science and research methods coming together. As Traditional Owners it is our responsibility to conserve and preserve Country,” he said.

Among Gudjuda rangers the word for turtle is Gungu, so World Turtle Day has been renamed World Gungu Day in Townsville.

To mark the occasion, Gudjuda, WWF-Australia and James Cook University held a celebration of turtles on Thursday 23 May including cultural dancers and elders telling stories about the Gungu.




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