Authors: Gilbert, J., Gray-Spence, A., Beaman, R.J.
Publication: 31st Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation, 12 to 15 April 2011. International Sea Turtle Society, San Diego, U.S.A.
All six species of marine turtles living in the Great Barrier Reef region are listed as vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered both in Queensland and Australian federal legislation. Threats that can result in injury or death from entanglement in discarded fishing nets, ingestion of marine debris, and accidental capture and drowning during commercial fishing activities are believed to be amongst the major causes of decline in marine turtle populations worldwide.
Ingestion of anthropogenic debris by marine turtles may cause a blockage in the gut causing the turtle to float due to a build up of gas in the gastrointestinal tract. This is termed ‘floaters disease’. Many of these animals perish at sea, as they are unable to dive to feed and become easy prey for larger animals.
Derelict fishing gear and discarded nets are a serious threat contributing to accidental entanglement and/or capture of marine turtles. Injuries may be life threatening, and include limb amputation and subsequent infection, reduction in mobility and ability to flee from predators, prolonged periods of floating when entangled in nets and damage from boat strike.
Turtles brought into the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre are suffering from threats such as ‘floaters disease’, ingestion of discarded foreign objects, injuries from discarded fishing apparatus, boat strike and crocodile attacks.