ESR 21:241-253 (2013)  -  doi:10.3354/esr00521

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

Michael P. Jensen1,*, Colin J. Limpus2, Scott D. Whiting3,4, Michael Guinea5, Robert I. T. Prince4, Kiki E. M. Dethmers6, Ida Bagus Windia Adnyana7, Rod Kennett8, Nancy N. FitzSimmons9

1Marine Mammal & Turtle Division, Southwest Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA, 8901 La Jolla Shores Drive, La Jolla, California 92037, USA
2Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (DEHP), Threatened Species Unit, PO Box 2454 City, Brisbane, Queensland 4001, Australia
3Department of Natural Resources, Environment, the Arts and Sport, PO Box 496, Palmerston, Northern Territory 0832, Australia
4Marine Science Program, Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW), Locked Bag 104, Bentley Delivery Centre, Western Australia 6983, Australia
5School of Environmental and Life Science, Faculty of Engineering, Health, Science and the Environment, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, Northern Territory 0909, Australia
6North Australia Marine Research Alliance, Arafura Timor Research Facility, Brinkin, Northern Territory 0810, Australia
7Udayana University, FKH - UNUD, Kampus Bukit Jimbaran 8000, Bali, Indonesia
8North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance, Charles Darwin University, Northern Territory 0815, Australia
9Environmental Futures Centre, Griffith University, Queensland 4222, Australia

ABSTRACT: In Australia, the olive ridley sea turtle Lepidochelys olivacea has received little research 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.


KEY WORDS: Genetics · By-catch · Population structure · Phylogeography · mtDNA


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Cite this article as: Jensen MP, Limpus CJ, Whiting SD, Guinea M and others (2013) Defining olive ridley turtle Lepidochelys olivacea management units in Australia and assessing the potential impact of mortality in ghost nets. Endang Species Res 21:241-253

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