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Tags reveal secret life of turtles and dugongs

TRACKING: A green turtle fitted with a satellite tag makes its way to the water at Spinnaker Park.
TRACKING: A green turtle fitted with a satellite tag makes its way to the water at Spinnaker Park. CONTRIBUTED

A STUDY that tracks turtles and dugongs in the Port Curtis area will continue into next year to gather more information about the marine animals.

The studies started in 2014 and will continue over a three year period to track the animals' movements to gain information about how the animals are using habitats in Port Curtis, and how long they are staying in particular areas.

In 2014, 11 green turtles were assessed in Port Curtis.

These animals had a tendency to remain in or return to where they were found, but used a variety of microhabitats and crossed deep water areas between foraging areas and areas of high vessel traffic, including shipping channels.

Two dugongs were also found on the Pelican Banks in Port Curtis in 2014.

Both remained in the Port Curtis region for the duration of tagging.

An adult female tracked from October 2014 to January 2015 spent most of her time moving over the Pelican Banks region, while an immature male tracked from October to November 2014 moved widely in Port Curtis including inshore port areas.

As part of the second year of the project, Environment Heritage and Protection officers and students from James Cook University and University of Queensland are in Gladstone to find green turtles and fit satellite tags to 11 new animals.

The tags are glued to the carapace of the animal, where they stay for more than four months.

The tags fall off when the turtles shed their scales.

Before the tagged animals are returned to where they were found, they will be weighed, measured, and assessed for gender, maturity and general health.

Researchers also hope to fit tags on up to three dugongs. They will be attached by a soft strap around the tail and will provide months of data.

EHP Threatened Species Unit chief scientist Dr Col Limpus said members of the community may mistake the satellite tags for litter and may think that the animal has been entangled in a float line.

The tagging projects will run until 2016, but the program comprises research projects until at least 2020 to examine the short, medium and long-term impacts on a range of marine mega fauna.

The studies are being carried out by researchers from JCU and the department, supported by Gladstone Ports Corporation.

Topics:  dugongs gladstone ports corporation marine life port curtis turtles



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