Keith Williams of Australian Seabird Rescue holds rescued sea turtle Helga, with Seaworld veterinarian David Blyde.
Keith Williams of Australian Seabird Rescue holds rescued sea turtle Helga, with Seaworld veterinarian David Blyde. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Turtle deaths still a mystery

MARINE experts from all over the state and beyond got down and dirty yesterday at Australian Seabird Rescue in Ballina to talk turtle.

Manager of Australian Seabird Rescue and Ballina Shire Councillor Keith Williams said a representative from every turtle hospital from Sydney to the Gold Coast, including marine scientists, vets, and fisheries officials, was in attendance at the workshop, a first, to his knowledge.

"Just to be in the same room as all these people" was incredible and informative," he said.

The workshop was based around a sharing of information, from research talks to a guided seminar conducting a post-mortem on some dead sea turtles.

Cr Williams said one of the main things they were attempting to address at the workshop was the as yet unknown reasons for recent spikes in sea turtle deaths.

The group was paying particular interest to hawksbill turtles, which are on the endangered species list everywhere else in the world and Australia except NSW.

He said 90% of turtles that ASR takes in are the common green sea turtles, but for two months of last year, Cr Williams said, the majority of ill turtles they took in were hawksbills.

So why are they not on this list in NSW?

Because, Cr Williams said, the NSW State Government believes they don't exist here.

Despite that, last year over 70 hawksbills were taken into care in NSW by groups such as Australian Seabird Rescue.

That was a huge increase, as the peak of past years has hit only around 20.

David Blyde, a veterinarian from SeaWorld, said the day was helping all these different groups to get on the same level in terms of sampling and research.

"We've never got to the bottom of what caused the die-off (in hawksbills)," he said.

 

Sea Turtles

  • It is a myth that all turtles can tuck their heads into their shells. All land turtles can but not sea turtles.
  • Many of the species can live from 50-80 years.
  • Some sea turtles travel up to 2090km in a single day when migrating.


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