CAPE York Natural Resource Management Ltd. was founded in 2010 and is the most recently established regional NRM body in Australia.
The NGO has been working recently with the World Wide Fund - Australia, (WWF) and the Northern Gulf Resource Management Group (Ghost Nets Australia Program), on an Ecosystem Based Marine Turtle Conservation Project for Cape York Peninsula.
The focus of the project is the establishment of a holistic approach to marine turtle conservation across Cape York Peninsula, with links to the region's marine turtle conservation efforts. The project aims to build sustainable and resilient populations of marine turtles in Cape York Peninsula through protecting and improving breeding, reducing feral animal predation, and supporting an ongoing involvement of local Indigenous communities with marine conservation.
Cape York Natural Resource Management CEO Bob Frazer said that working with WWF-Australia and the Northern Gulf Resource Management Group will ensure the best possible outcomes for turtle management on Cape York Peninsula.
“This is an important step to be taking in the preservation of the threatened turtle species in Cape York Peninsula,” Mr Frazer said.
“The holistic approach to management and the relationships we are working towards will take the efforts to date, and build on these to improve the conservation outcomes being achieved through improved collaboration, a clear strategic and consistent ecosystem based approach, and better integration of science,” he said.
The project scopes and develops a strategic conservation plan and related investment prospectus for a program providing a holistic and ecosystem based approach to turtle conservation across Cape York Peninsula. It connects with regional conservation activities, and improves Indigenous engagement, building on efforts undertaken to date.
Cape York provides nesting habitat considered internationally significant for the conservation of Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea), Flatback (Natator depressus), and Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) turtles.
The area contains the world’s largest nesting population of the endemic Flatback turtle, Queensland’s entire nesting population of the Olive Ridley species, and a regionally significant nesting population of Hawksbill turtles. The eastern side of Cape York provides the world’s largest nesting population of Green turtles (Chelonia mydas).
All species have the ability to migrate thousands of kilometres to nest in this area. Cape York also supports Australia’s largest concentration of feral pigs (Sus scrofa). Olive Ridley, Flatback and Hawksbill turtles nesting on western Cape York are susceptible to high levels of pig predation. Limpus et al. (1993) estimated that loss of egg clutches due to feral pig consumption, on Cape York south of the Jardine River, was approaching 90%. Due to high levels of animal predation on nests, there is real concern amongst experts and community members that all three species will become locally extinct within 25-30 years.
Turtle conservation on Cape York Peninsula to date is focused on the west coast through the Cape York Turtle Nest Monitoring Program, now in its sixth year. Conservation efforts on the east coast are focused on data collection and monitoring.
The Cape York Turtle Nest Monitoring program was independently reviewed recently. The review clearly points to the need for holistic, well coordinated and adequately resourced conservation efforts focused on marine turtles across Cape York Peninsula. There has been no such focus to date.
The partnership between WWF-Australia and Northern Gulf Resource Management Group ensures a holistic approach to turtle conservation management will bring about the best possible outcomes for these endangered species.