Last month Sea Turtle Foundation’s Program Manager Johanna Karam attended the 3rd Australian Sea Turtle Symposium in Darwin, below is a reflection of her time in Darwin:
“Turtles were all anyone was talking about in Darwin during August. Well at least that was the case for five days when I was lucky enough to attend the 3rd Australian Sea Turtle Symposium (ASTS) followed by a two-day Hawksbill Crisis Workshop.
The ASTS brought together turtle scientists, carers and managers from across Australia to exchange information about programs protecting marine turtle species and share research that is helping us to understand issues that affect our beloved marine reptiles. Representatives from Papua New Guinea and New Caledonia also came along to be a part of regional turtle talks. On day two, symposium participants headed out to Charles Darwin University to meet some olive ridley hatchlings and ‘Hef’, an adult hawksbill who was be rehabilitated after being rescued from a private zoo. Well done to AusTurtle in the Northern Territory for pulling together this fabulous three-day event.
Long-term monitoring of Milman Island in the northern Great Barrier Reef shows that local populations of nesting hawksbills are in serious decline. In response, WWF Australia organised a two-day workshop between Australian state and federal government agencies and non-governmental organisations along with colleagues from Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste and New Caledonia to discuss what can be done to conserve and restore populations in the Indo-Pacific region. Regulation for the protection of marine turtles in Australia is strong there are concerns that the hawksbills are being killed during their migration into the waters of our regional neighbours to the north. The main identified threats to the species were hunting and incidental catches in the fishing industry, which feed the illegal tortoise shell trade. Egg harvesting and the loss of suitable nesting habitat due to climate change were also raised as causes for concern. The status of hawksbill turtles is poorly understood in Western Australia and the Northern Territory and it was agreed that more information is needed so that we can figure out what is happening to these populations and determine if they heading on the same downward trajectory as the western Pacific population. In the mean time, participants agreed that we all need to work together to do more to protect this beautiful and iconic species.
Both of these events provided a fabulous opportunity to catch up with old colleagues from the turtle world and introduce myself and the Sea Turtle Foundation to others. Hopefully some useful partnerships will emerge between the Sea Turtle Foundation and other regional players so that we can continue to work together for the conservation and restoration of marine turtles.”