The sea turtle resources of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Indian Ocean

About the Reports

This report documents the results of the several years of sea turtle research undertaken at Cocos (Keeling) Islands.

The Cocos (Keeling) Islands are listed as important habitat for marine turtles in the Draft Recovery Plan for Marine Turtles (2005). Information gathered during this research assists in achieving the objectives of the Indian Ocean Sea Turtle Memorandum of Understanding (IOSEA) and the Marine Turtle Recovery Plan (2003).

The detailed aims of the study are to:

  • Continue with the mark-recapture study on the southern atoll with the longterm goal of estimating population size
  • Catch a sample of turtles to continue the assessment of species composition and size structure
  • From the captured sample, obtain growth rates from previously tagged turtles
  • Continue studies of the nesting turtles on North Keeling
  • Collect genetic material from nesting female turtles

Hawksbill turtles Eretmochelys imbricata and green turtles Chelonia mydas occur in the Cocos Keeling Islands lagoon with population sizes estimated in the high hundreds for hawksbill turtles and several thousand for green turtles. Both species are listed as vulnerable in Australia (EPBC Act 1999) and internationally the hawksbill turtle is listed as critically endangered and the green turtle is listed as endangered (IUCN, 2010). The Cocos (Keeling) Islands provide a unique opportunity to study these species under relatively natural conditions and also in a remote location, being nearly 1000 km to the nearest land mass.