Conservation on the Reef!

Hey guys!

I hope you all had a wonderful New Years with family and friends, wherever you are in the world! 🙂 Recently in the New Year, I have travelled out to work once again at Lady Elliot Island on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, my ‘home’ and where I have had the most incredible wildlife encounters imaginable!

Here at Lady Elliot Island, it is part of my job to show guests the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef and educate them as to why it should be better protected for generations to come… It isn’t looking good for the future of the Great Barrier Reef itself, with experts saying that if the damage continues (through commercial fishing, illegal fishing, extraction, pollution and ocean warming) that the negative implications for the coral reef, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, could be irreversible and that we may see the complete destruction of the reef within the next few decades… during my lifetime.

Another aspect that I get to become involved in is the research and conservation efforts here on the island- particularly involving our sea turtles.

Here we often see three (of the seven) species of sea turtles found globally; Green, Loggerhead and Hawksbill turtles. All species of sea turtles are classed as threatened or endangered, so conservation and research efforts on these ancient species is imperative to their survival. The destruction of their habitats, pollution, commercial fishing by-catch and traditional hunting are all factors contributing to their global decline… it takes over 30 years for a sea turtle to become sexually mature, and only 1 in 1000 hatchlings survive to adulthood. With all of these odds against them as well as the destruction of human activities, it’s important that each and every turtle has a chance at life!

Two days ago at about 3:30pm, a Loggerhead (endangered) laid 149 eggs on the Northern side of the island. When we arrived to mark the nest, we noticed that the female had laid her eggs very close to the high tide point… It takes approximately 8 weeks for sea turtles to hatch and emerge from their nest and journey toward the ocean- in that time, it is extremely likely that a storm or tide would have flooded and destroyed the Loggerheads’ nest- so, in order to save the 149 eggs and sea turtles to-be, trained staff were able to re-locate the nest to a much safer area well above the high tide point… By doing so, we ensured that the entire nest had a much better chance at survival! To see photos and video from the re-location, watch the video below (will be uploaded very soon!)

Along the Northern areas of the Great Barrier Reef and neighbouring Torres Strait, there is a legal slaughter of sea turtles (as well as endangered dugongs) occurring. This slaughter, under the Native Title Act, allows traditional owners to capture and kill sea turtles and dugongs- with no set quota or cruelty laws in place.

Much of these killings have adopted modernised ways of killing these animals, disregarding any traditional practices- there is also growing evidence of illegal selling of by-products taken from these animals. Whilst many traditional practices were sustainable at the time of inception- in the past 50 years with the increase in commercial fishing, pollution and devastation of habitat, the populations of sea turtles and dugongs are dwindling at an increasing rate- all the while, there are no accurate and extensive assessments of these populations up north. How can we take from a population when we don’t even know the full extent of the damage we are causing?

Traditions and cultures change and adapt all the time as we find out more about the effects that they have on the surrounding environments and societies… We have one last chance to save these species in the next few decades, as well as the marine environment itself.

On the 14th of February, I will be in Brisbane urging the Queensland Government to think seriously about the protection of sea turtles and dugongs in Australian waters, alongside Bob Irwin and Colin Riddell- if you’ll be in the area, please join us!

To help me in my mission to give a voice to the youth of the world to protect our marine wildlife, read all about my ‘In Our Hands’ project and PLEASE get involved! 🙂

You can follow my Facebook for more updates on my journey… Also email me at pathtoprotect@hotmail.com with any comments or questions!
Thanks again for all the support guys!

On the path to protect,
Nicole.

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4 comments

  1. Hi Nic! Thankyou for taking such an incredible stand for the dugongs and the turtles, Im so excited you are gong to speak for them in Brsbane, I can get facts and figures for you if you need them, it may help your argument to show the gov that in the dugongs entire range (south east asia) anywhere outside of Australia they are only found in such small numbers that even a famous scientist like Helen Marsh (australian) has written papers that say there is no hope of recovering the populations in these areas, due to their long lives and slow reproduction rates. In fact in some places like the Andaman islands where we were working, she recommended not even to try at all! Australia is literally the last place left in the world with a stable population. Dugongs are indicator species, they have a very important role in releasing important nutrients locked on the sea floor and bringing it back into the food chain.As they eat their nutrient rich poop, provides fish with nutrients they would never otherwise get. And most people also dont know that the little fish that hang around with dugongs, are babies like silver jacks and other species of fish, normally stable food for coastal communities. The dugongs protect these baby fish, they eat with the dugongs and follow them around constantly, sometimes one dugong protects 30 baby fish.. until they grow big and strong (oh and eatable) so if the aboriginal communities protected the dugongs they will be helping the fish population to increase, thus ensuring food for themselves! In India we started telling stories that the dugong is the mother of the ocean to try to sensitize the locals to these amazing creature…We are based in Panama at the moment,on some small islands called Bocas Del Toro.. Natalie and I spent 7 weeks together in costa rica and will be meeting up again soon…Sening love and light to you xxxxxxx

    1. Thanks for your comment, Nori 🙂
      I miss you guys, I will send a big email very soon on my plans and everything! I’ve been a little busy lately so I’m sorry that I haven’t been in touch as much as I should be!!
      That would be awesome if you could email some links or journal articles on the dugongs from any of your contacts!
      Talk very soon, lots of love
      Nic xx

  2. Welcome back Nicole 🙂

    I was lucky enough to see a green turtle on a dive in Camp Cove in Sydney of all places on Sunday 08/01, apparently observed by a number of divers over 2-3 days prior to our dive. I let Colin know as soon as I got home, he was letting 1 of his Taronga friends know, I didn’t hear any further. The turtle appeared healthy enough & seemed not too phased by our presence of 6-7 in about 5-7metres of water, swam off a tad slow when leaving us I thought as I followed alongside 1-2 metres away for about 20-40 seconds – perhaps just placidly rather than ill natured.

    I am really hoping to make Brizzy Feb 14th, so hope I meet you if I can get away from work in Sydney… already done my good deed to “buy” the day off – fingers crossed hard !!

    Here’s to good decisions for 2012 – dugongs & turtles inclusionevelyverymuchnessioness!

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