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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

03 July 2001

AUSTRALIA SIGNS AGREEMENT TO HELP PROTECT MARINE TURTLES


Australia has signed an international agreement to help secure marine turtle populations in the Indian Ocean, and in South East Asia.

Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill said Australia's signing of the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation and Management of Marine Turtles and their Habitats (Indian Ocean and South East Asia) would help protect globally threatened marine turtles and the areas in which they lived.

"All marine turtle species are experiencing serious threats to their survival, primarily from pollution and changes to their habitat, and also from accidental drowning in fishing gear, over-harvesting of turtles and eggs, and predation of eggs and hatchlings by other species," Senator Hill said.

"A marine turtle conservation and management plan agreed to by the participating countries will provide the framework for the countries to work together to mitigate these threats to marine turtles, and look at ways to reverse their declining populations."

Senator Hill said the main aims of the marine turtle conservation and management plan are to:

"Australia has a major role to play in the protection of these magnificent creatures. Our coastlines possess some of the largest marine turtle nesting areas in the Indo-Pacific region, and have the only nesting populations of the Flatback turtle," Senator Hill said.

Of the seven species of marine turtles in the world, six occur in Australian waters: Loggerhead turtle, Green turtle, Hawksbill turtle, Leatherback turtle, Olive Ridley turtle and the Flatback turtle. All of the species are classed as either endangered or vulnerable under the Commonwealth's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Senator Hill said eight other nations, along with the Convention on Migratory Species Secretariat, have signed the Memorandum of Understanding, with a number of other nations planning to sign the Understanding in the near future. It will come into effect on September 1, 2001.

Date: July 3, 2001

Media Contact: Belinda Huppatz on (02) 6277 7640 or 0419 258 364

Commonwealth of Australia