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Press release 26 January 2016

Collaborating to understand turtle habits and hang-outs in Australia

Collaborating to understand turtle habits and hang-outs in Australia

In 2015, our business in Australia, QGC, led studies of marine turtle behaviour in Gladstone Harbour that will benefit turtle populations throughout the Great Barrier Reef.

Research conducted through a joint industry initiative is improving the collective understanding of turtle behaviour and has developed a Long Term Turtle Management Plan (PDF 2.5 MB) – an Australian first. The results of this research can be applied at every major port along the Queensland coast.

QGC Marine Specialist, Andrew Tapsall, said studies were being implemented that will enhance existing programs and “fill the gaps” in studies of marine turtle ecology to create a more complete body of knowledge. “This is important because the outcomes we get from our Long Term Turtle Management Plan will benefit flat back and other marine turtles throughout the Great Barrier Reef, not just Port Curtis,’’ Andrew said.

“Under the plan, we have already identified foraging patterns of green turtles in Port Curtis. The turtles spend most of their time in the shallows feeding on sea grass rather than in the shipping channels where there is greater risk of contact with boating traffic.”

Results indicate that the majority of foraging adults graze on the Pelican Banks seagrass meadow, one of the largest seagrass beds in the Port Curtis Region. Juvenile males feed on algae in the shallows around the Wiggins Island coal export terminal, on the western side of the harbours.  This potential indicates the adult males are displacing the younger males from the bounty of Pelican Banks meadows.

Development of long-term turtle management plans was a federal government requirement for each proponent establishing an LNG industry in Gladstone. Rather than developing competing plans, QGC, Australia Pacific LNG (APLNG) and Santos GLNG jointly consulted with government research institutes and community groups to develop a collaborative plan that complements an existing Ecosystem Research and Monitoring Program coordinated by Gladstone Ports Corporation. Working collaboratively in the marine space has fostered stronger relationships between the three proponents, and built strong conservation alliances with government agencies (State and Federal) and with the community by involving them in nesting and hatchling surveys at Curtis Island.

Peter Blackwell from the Department of Environment said the joint programme “will deliver outcomes considerably superior to what could have been achieved had each company separately met its regulatory requirements.”

A key outcome of the joint Long Term Turtle Management Plan was the coordination of a multi-faceted research and monitoring project reducing duplication. The project also fills a gap in the knowledge of endangered and vulnerable turtle species and ecology in Port Curtis by undertaking research and reporting the findings. The development of the plan has created a platform with our key stakeholders in industry, government, research institutes and the community to come together on future environmental and conservation programs in the Port Curtis Region adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef.