Climate Change and Sustainability Minister Kate Jones today joined a team of marine scientists undertaking a three day turtle monitoring program in Moreton Bay.
Ms Jones said the team, led by DERM Chief Scientist and world turtle authority Dr Col Limpus, is capturing endangered loggerhead and green turtles for health checks and tagging as part of the Government's ongoing program to monitor the status of turtles in the area.
The Minister also assisted in the release of a turtle back into the water, which had been fitted with a new advanced GPS tracking device, as part of an ongoing joint research project between the Department of Environment and Resource Management and an international research student from James Cook University (JCU).
"This turtle monitoring program is crucial to ensuring we have a clear picture of the health and population of the loggerhead and green turtles which live on the seagrass flats here in Moreton Bay," Ms Jones said.
"Our government has introduced significant habitat protections for the turtles, and recent data tells us that this is helping to increase the number of turtles living, breeding and nesting along our coastline.
"We want to ensure this turn around in turtle numbers continues - and that is why ongoing monitoring and tracking is so important.
"The marine scientists will be examining up to 150 turtles this week.
"The data collected will be collated with findings from similar monitoring programs throughout the year to provide the best possible picture of the current health of the turtle population.
"Around 600 turtles have been examined already this year, and by the end of the year the team hopes to have collected data on a further 200.
"The scientists are looking at things such as gender ratios, evidence of disease, the average age of the turtles and the proportion of turtles suffering from injuries such as boat strikes.
"This information helps us to gain a clear understanding of how our efforts to improve water quality in Moreton Bay, as well the expansion of Go-Slow zones is helping to improve the health and survival of these turtles."
Ms Jones said the release of another turtle with an advanced GPS tracking device today will particularly assist in the ongoing monitoring of migratory patterns of loggerhead turtles as they travel from Moreton Bay to the beaches near Bundaberg to nest.
The device was attached by Japanese student Takahiro Shimada, who is studying a Master of Science at JCU's Townsville campus, supervised by Dr Mark Hamann from JCU and Dr Col Limpus.
"As part of his research, Mr Shimada is using satellite technology to monitor the behaviour of the loggerhead species," Ms Jones said.
"These new advanced GPS tags enable researchers to know within a few metres where a turtle is at any time and this helps to discover more accurate information about feeding habits, migration patterns and other important factors.
"In September we released incredible results from three other turtles which showed they had covered more than 3200km over a five-month period as they made their way down to Moreton Bay from Mon Repos near Bundaberg, exploring vast and diverse sections of the coastline throughout their journey.
"The latest turtle to have the device attached this week is one of several being monitored by Mr Shimada, and the information learned will add to the knowledge gained from Queensland's existing turtle research program which has been run by DERM for more than 40 years.
"All of this information helps government with long-term planning for the Moreton Bay Marine Park, including the location of go-slow areas to protect turtles and dugong and where our conservation efforts should be focused."
Ms Jones said this year's turtle nesting season is imminent, with turtles expected to arrive on beaches from Bundaberg region down to just to north of Brisbane in the coming weeks.