Great Barrier Reef Region Guide

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GREEN SEA TURTLE
GREEN SEA TURTLE
FASTEST SEA TURTLE ON THE REEF
FASTEST SEA TURTLE ON THE REEF
GRACEFULLY NAVIGATE THE OCEANS
GRACEFULLY NAVIGATE THE OCEANS
DECLINE IN TURTLE POPULATIONS
DECLINE IN TURTLE POPULATIONS
ENDANGERED SPECIES
ENDANGERED SPECIES


Green Sea Turtles

Updated: 22-Mar-2007

Kindly contributed by Jamie Harbord
First published in re:port magazine, February 2007.


Green sea turtles have gracefully navigated their way around the oceans for over 200 million years. Despite this, at birth, these enchanting, complex and intrepid travelling turtles have very little chance of surviving to adulthood. Even though they are found around the world, they have been endangered since 1982, and now face a measured risk of extinction.

Called ‘green’ because of the colour of the body fat under their shells, these guys are the fastest sea turtle out there, reaching speeds of 32km. Adults weigh an average 150kg and may grow to over a metre long in the shell. They also undertake lengthy migrations, inhabiting the coastal waters of over 140 countries and nesting in over 80 countries.

Most start and end their lives as biscuit sized hatchlings frantically running the gauntlet of predators while trying to reach the relative safety of open water. Only two percent will make it past this initial ominous onslaught. Those that do will soon leave their nesting beach and continue their development, travelling on major ocean currents.

Maturing is slow business, thought to be the longest of all turtles. It will take a good 25 years, even up to 40 years, before sexual maturity is reached.

Once at maturity, adult turtles commence breeding migrations every few years. Each nesting period females will drag themselves out of the water and dig large nests in the sand between two and five times each season. In each she will lay over a hundred eggs, which take about sixty days to incubate and hatch; so long as the feral pigs or people don’t dig them up.

Recent scientific studies, combined with historical accounts, indicate there is extensive subpopulation declines in all the major oceans over the last three generations. There’s been a 48-67% decrease in the number of nesting females.

The main reason for this decline is the over exploitation of eggs and adults at the nesting sites, and of juveniles and adults in feeding areas. Basically, all around the world, we are eating the turtle into extinction. Degradation of marine and nesting habitats, plus losses to fisheries, are also a part of this scenario; but in the case of the turtles these are less significant factors than our own over exploitation of them for either sport, food, or trophy shells.

A few months back I went down to Pebbly Beach in the late afternoon. There were two lads and their dog fishing off the rocks, so I went and asked how the fishing was. The reply I got still amazes me: “Nothing much today, mate, but we got a beauty turtle here yesterday, hooked it on the flipper and it put up a hell of a good fight, it buggered me.”

As you can see even the turtles around here aren’t safe.

www.re-port.com.au

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