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 firstname.lastname@example.org with any comments or questions!
Thanks again for all the support guys!
On the path to protect,