Media Release


Scientific researchers will today (Tuesday) travel to remote Raine Island on the northern tip of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef for the start of a critical nesting season at the world’s largest green turtle nesting site.

Great Barrier Reef and National Parks Minister Dr Steven Miles said the first boatload of Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service rangers, marine scientists, Traditional Owner rangers and volunteers were expected to leave Cape York Peninsula for Raine Island this afternoon.

“This will be the third intensive monitoring season since the decision was taken to intervene in an attempt to save this remote sand island which is the nesting ground for around 60,000 green turtles each year,” Dr Miles said.

“The results from last year’s monitoring validated the drastic decision to re-shape part of the nesting beach to combat erosion and the team is also looking forward to continuing its work to measure the long-term resilience of the project.”

The Raine Island Recovery Project is a five-year, $7.95 million collaboration between BHP Billiton, the Queensland Government, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the Wuthathi Nation and the Kemer Kemer Meriam Nation (Ugar, Mer, Erub) Traditional Owners and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

Raine Island is one of the most closely monitored green turtle breeding grounds in the world with researchers taking advantage of the most up-to-date technology.

Last season, drones were used for the first time to provide ‘eye-in-the-sky’ monitoring and to confirm that the re-shaped section of the island retained its integrity and remained above the water level.

This year the research team will be equipped with iPads loaded with an electronic database developed especially for the project by spatial information technology consultants we-do-IT.

The Raine Island Recovery Project Electronic Recording Database was developed pro bono by we-do-IT which also donated five iPads specially fitted with military grade protective housings to withstand the harsh conditions.

“Up until now the researchers have recorded information on paper datasheets but thanks to this generous donation they will be able to record all field data, from turtle counts to geomorphology surveys, directly into one integrated system,” Dr Miles said.

“A priority for the first trip will be the tagging of three adult green turtles with satellite tracking technology.

“This will give researchers the ability to track how many times each of the satellite-tagged turtles returns to lay clutches of eggs at Raine Island throughout the season.

“Female green turtles can lay multiple times during a season and researchers will be able to track how many times each of these three turtles returns to lay clutches of eggs at Raine Island, as well as their precise movements during and between laying attempts, throughout the season.

“Additionally, once the turtles have finished laying for the season, researchers can gain a better understanding of where these turtles go and the challenges they face in their long journey through the oceans between breeding seasons.

“The team will also be making any necessary repairs to the fencing which has prevented numerous turtles from tipping over the cliffs created by the erosion and determine whether any other works are required.”

Dr Miles said this was the first of a series of trips to the island planned during the 2016-17 nesting season.