Raine Island Research Trip

Background

Raine Island is the world’s largest green sea turtle rookery. In recent years, both nesting and hatching success have been undergoing significant declines, and the Queensland government has made reversal of these trends a priority. Last year, the government entered into a partnership with BHP Billiton to fund research and monitoring activities on the island ($5.5 million over 5 years). The secured funding means that research trips to Raine Island are more frequent and high-profile. Due to our previous relationship with EHP/NPSR staff and satisfactory performance on previous monitoring trips on Raine Island, STF staff was invited to be part of the research trip scheduled for 26 January-February 8, 2016. The purpose of this report is to share information about the activities and evaluate outcomes of STF’s participation in the program, to inform future programming decisions. Participants included 16 researchers and volunteers from the following institutions and groups:
• Queensland Parks & Wildlife Service
• Torres Strait Regional Authority
• National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (USA)
• University of Queensland
• James Cook University
• Wuthathi Traditional Owners
• Murray Island Traditional Owners
• ReefHQ/Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
• Biopixel
• Sea Turtle Foundation

Nesting satellite-tagged turtle

Activities

The focus of this research event was hatching success, but also included monitoring of nesting success and total nesting population, in addition to surveys of seabird populations and seabird nesting success. The boat arrived on Raine Island on Wednesday, 27 January. Researchers worked in alternating night and day shifts. The group completed three nights of data collection on nesting success, one night of population monitoring (tally count and painting turtles for mark-recapture surveys), five nights of hatchling counts, and day shifts to rescue trapped turtles, excavate nests and monitor hatching success, and conduct reef flat surveys for population monitoring. The boat left Raine Island on Saturday 6 Feb due to weather, tides and an injured team member.

Excavating nests in Sector B
Excavating nests in Sector B