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Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
12 August 1999
Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill announced today that protection for a sea turtle found only in Australian waters has been strengthened by its listing as vulnerable under the Endangered Species Protection Act 1992.
The Flatback Turtle is found only on Australia's continental shelf and all its known breeding sites are located in Australia.
Senator Hill said that the listing of the Flatback turtle complemented an increase in protection for another turtle species - the Pacific or Olive Ridley Turtle. The status of the Olive Ridley Turtle has been amended from vulnerable to endangered under the Act.
Senator Hill indicated that the listing of the Flatback turtle and the decision to designate the Olive Ridley Turtle as endangered reflect the Government's efforts to protect Australia's marine biodiversity, particularly threatened species such as turtles.
"Australia is nearing completion of a national recovery plan for all marine turtles, including Flatback and Olive Ridley Turtles, which will address the key threats to the survival of these beautiful animals.
"I expect that the Recovery Plan for Marine Turtles will look at increased use of Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDS) in the prawn trawling industry, additional measures to prevent feral animals preying on turtle eggs, and measures to reduce turtle deaths caused by shark meshing. It will also need to address mechanisms to promote sustainable harvesting by indigenous communities and regional co-operation with Australia's neighbours.'
Senator Hill welcomed efforts by the fishing industry to increase the use of TEDS and indicated the Government's commitment to work co-operatively with industry to protect turtles. The Endangered Species Scientific Subcommittee has advised that prawn trawling is adversely affecting 3 species of turtles, including Flatback and Olive Ridley turtles, making the use of Turtle Excluder Devices a particularly important initiative. These devices provide an escape hatch in the trawl net so the turtles can escape if they are accidentally caught.
"Australia is a stronghold for marine turtles and we will take action to ensure our waters remain a haven for all turtle species," Senator Hill said.
Rod Bruem (Senator Hill's office) (02) 6277 7640 or 0411 128 582
David Kay (Environment Australia) (02) 6274 2240