Defining olive ridley turtle Lepidochelys olivacea management units in Australia and assessing the potential impact of mortality in ghost nets

Michael Jensen, Colin Limpus, Scott Whiting, Michael Guinea, Robert Prince, Elisabeth Dethmers, Ida Adnyana, Rod Kennett, N Fitzsimmons

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    In Australia, the olive ridley sea turtle Lepidochelys olivacea has received little re - search attention and monitoring. The Australian populations are relatively small and their distribution is limited to remote areas in the northern part of the country. Previous global genetic studies of olive ridley populations showed that the Australian breeding population at the McCluer Group of islands, Northern Territory, is genetically distinct from other olive ridley populations breeding in the Indo-Pacific. However, nothing is known about the genetic stock structure among Australian olive ridley rookeries found across northern Australia. High predation of eggs by feral pigs, dogs and monitor lizards Varanus spp. is believed to have severely impacted the number of nesting females at some rookeries. Of particular concern is the small nesting population on the western Cape York Peninsula, and without immediate conservation action this population could face extinction. The results presented here establish that there are at least 2 independent management units (stocks) of olive ridley turtles nesting in Australia and emphasise the importance of conserving the genetically distinct small breeding population nesting along the western Cape York Peninsula. In addition, results from 44 turtles caught in ghost nets across the Gulf of Carpentaria revealed that 45% of the haplotypes (32% of all ghost net samples) had not been observed at any rookery in Australia or SE Asia. This research highlights the need for better information on olive ridley population structure in the region and for urgent conservation action for the western Cape York population.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)241-253
    Number of pages13
    JournalEndangered Species Research
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


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