More than 6,000 marine turtles live in Shark Bay, including the globally endangered green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta). Research projects have revealed much about their diet, habitat and role in the Shark Bay marine ecosystem.
One major project is ongoing monitoring of nesting loggerhead turtles. Shark Bay is one of Australia’s most important nesting areas for these turtles and the size and health of Shark Bay’s loggerhead turtle population has been monitored since 1994. The research at Turtle Bay on the northern end of Dirk Hartog Island involves volunteers and researchers measuring and tagging turtles after they have laid eggs.
Researchers are learning about turtle survival rates, migration, breeding success, and the recruitment of newly matured turtles into the breeding population.
Turtles take more than 30 years to reach maturity, nest every 3–5 years and can live more than 100 years. Long-term study is helping researchers understand turtle life cycle and identify regular patterns of behaviour and responses to unexpected events.
Findings from the monitoring program will ultimately lead to better management decisions to meet the species’ conservation needs.