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2 December 2002
Coastcare Week 2002
Australian marine experts and Coastcare Week ambassadors, Ron and Valerie Taylor, today issued an urgent warning to all Territorians — protect our threatened marine species or risk losing them forever!
The Taylors have issued the call as part of Coastcare Week (1 -7 December), which is drawing attention to the plight of Australia's threatened and vulnerable marine species in a new campaign — 'The Coast is our Home'. The Northern Territory Coastcare community is focusing on the preservation of marine turtles.
Ron and Valerie Taylor have been worldwide pioneers in marine education for over 50 years. They filmed the live shark sequences in the blockbuster movie 'Jaws' for Steven Spielberg in the 1970's and made a series of hit television programs about marine life.
Valerie Taylor, who was awarded the 2002 Australian Senior Achiever of the Year for marine conservation, said that in Australia, all species of marine turtles are protected, however this legislation has not stopped numbers continuing to decline.
"Of the seven species of marine turtles in the world, six occur in Australian waters — the Loggerhead turtle, Green turtle, Hawksbill turtle, Leatherback turtle, Olive Ridley turtle and the Flatback turtle. The Loggerhead and Olive Ridley turtles are listed as endangered in Australia.
"There are only a few large nesting populations of the Green, Hawksbill and Loggerhead turtles left in the world. Australia has some of the largest marine turtle nesting areas in the Indo-Pacific region and the only nesting populations of the Flatback turtle, so it is imperative that we all help to protect their vital habitat," Ms Taylor said.
All marine turtle species are experiencing serious threats to their survival. The main threats are pollution and changes to important turtle habitats, especially coral reefs, seagrass beds, mangrove forests and nesting beaches. Accidental drowning in fishing gear, mortality of adults in prawn trawls, shark and gill nets, collisions with speedboats and predation of eggs and hatchlings are all contributing to diminishing turtle populations in Australia. Some turtles may only breed in around five seasons in their lives, making them extremely vulnerable to over exploitation.
Ron and Valerie have worked tirelessly over the years to raise awareness about the need to protect many marine species including Marine Turtles, the Grey Nurse Shark, Seals and the Great White Shark.
Ron Taylor said that Coastcare is something we all need to be part of.
"This year's Coastcare Week campaign aims to significantly lift awareness about the very real threats our marine species are facing. We also want to highlight what people can do in the community to protect these species.
"There are many things people can do to help turtles in the wild. Do not discard old fishing lines, nets, plastic or other pollutants on beaches or into the sea. Plastic bags are particularly harmful to turtles as they swallow the bag after mistaking it for jellyfish — an important food source.
"When boating, be on the lookout to avoid turtle injuries, especially in shallow waters, ensure domestic dogs are kept under control at all times, and minimise any lighting near turtle nesting sites."
NT Coastcare Coordinator Carolynne Yates said people can also help protect marine turtles when fishing by checking long-lines, gillnets and lobster/crab pots frequently to disentangle any turtles caught accidentally and using Turtle Excluder Devices for trawling and other fish netting activities. These devices allow large animals such as turtles to escape from trawl nets without being drowned. It's also important to avoid trawling near turtle rookeries.
"If you do happen to accidentally injure or kill a turtle, or find a dead one on the beach, please send the location and date together with any tags to your Territory conservation department," Ms Yates said.
Detailed research, population modelling, and turtle tagging and tracking activities are being carried out in Australia and the Indo-Pacific region to assist with turtle conservation programs. During breeding seasons at selected turtle breeding areas, nesting marine turtles are tagged with a non-corrosive metal tag carrying an identification number. Later recaptures allow scientists from the conservation agencies and universities to monitor marine turtle populations, migration patterns, breeding activity, growth and mortality factors.
"We know relatively little about the ocean whereas we know so much about animals that live on the land. We simply do not know the real number of threatened marine species. We do not even know the level of rarity of most marine species," Mr Taylor said.
"However, what we have observed is that a whole range of marine creatures just aren't around in the same numbers because of the impact of development and over fishing."
Marine turtles also have important cultural and social values for Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders living in coastal areas of northern Australia. Turtles and their eggs are an important food source to many people living in these communities without alternative sources of fresh red meat.
These indigenous communities are regulating access to some traditional hunting areas and monitoring harvesting activities to help them effectively plan for the sustainable use of marine turtles. Communities such as these are at the cornerstone in undertaking important research and monitoring of marine turtles.
Coastcare is a program of the Commonwealth Government's Natural Heritage Trust, in partnership with State/Territory and Local Governments.
For more information on Coastcare or to join a Coastcare group, please call Environment Australia's Community Information Unit on 1800 803 772 or visit the web site at: www.ea.gov.au/coasts/coastcare
Interviews with Ron & Valerie Taylor, contact Ross Woodward or Jessica Morrow from Media Key on (03) 9787 5844.
Media can also contact Carolynne Yates, the Northern Territory Coastcare Coordinator on 08 8999 4507.
Wildlife Management Officer
Parks and Wildlife Service
Ph: 08 8999 4451
Mobile: 0401 110 205