Research project:
Sea Turtle Responses to Vessel Traffic

Photo & text copyright © 2004-2005 Julia Hazel

Photo above copyright Guido Parravergara 2003

I'm enrolled at James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland, as a PhD candidate in the discipline of Environmental Science. My research project is to investigate sea turtle responses to vessel traffic.

If you are interested in helping with my fieldwork, please check the volunteers page.

For those who want to know more about my project, here is the summary from my research proposal.

Collisions with vessel cause a significant number of sea turtle deaths in some coastal waters that have a high level of human activity. This mortality is of particular concern because sea turtles are threatened globally and within Australia, where all six species of sea turtle found within the nation's jurisdiction are listed as threatened species under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. In addition to their biodiversity value, sea turtles are of great cultural significance to indigenous Australians, attract widespread popular interest and provide a focus for economically important eco-tourism programs.

Over the past decade it has become apparent from injuries observed on stranded turtle carcasses in Queensland, that significant turtle mortality results from accidental collisions in Moreton Bay, Hervey Bay and Cleveland Bay. However, lack of information about the circumstances of such collisions hampers the development of management strategies to mitigate this problem. No studies have directly addressed interactions between turtles and vessels and little is known about the underwater behaviour of any sea turtles.

My project seeks to fill this gap with new data to be derived from three lines of enquiry: Firstly I plan to experimentally investigate the behavioural responses of turtles to an approaching research vessel under various conditions. Secondly I plan to use acoustic tracking methods to obtain descriptive data on turtles' movement patterns in navigation areas. Thirdly I propose to accumulate GPS records and visual observations of vessel traffic. Finally I intend to prepare a risk assessment for turtles exposed to vessel traffic in Moreton Bay, based on a synthesis of my findings in this project.

Pictures and text copyright © 2004-2005 Julia Hazel

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