We are very excited to announce our new project run by our resident Marine Biologist Mem in the monitoring and recording of Sea Turtles in the Raja Ampat marine park. As a Sea Turtle specialist with work and research in the field in the Aegean, Mediterranean and Caribbean she has a wealth of knowledge about Sea Turtles.
Sea Turtles can be considered the ambassadors of the seas – They are one of very few species that cross the land/marine divide and have been on this earth for millions of years. They are vital not only to several different marine ecosystems, but also for the terrestrial coast line systems as well.
Sea Turtles are extremely important for the marine environment and play a myriad of roles in the marine ecosystem; from maintaining productive coral reef ecosystems, to providing a habitat for other marine life to live upon. Helping maintain sea grass beds, controlling jellyfish populations, providing food for other fish and marine organisms. Facilitating nutrient cycling from marine to terrestrial, by transporting and placing (eggs) essential nutrients from the oceans to beaches worldwide.
There are many areas of Sea Turtle Research, from Tagging and Satellite tracking to nesting research and protection. Much of the research undertaken in the field of Sea Turtles is either shore based (with nesting) Lab based with genetics and satellite monitoring. There is only a small amount of research being conducted in the oceans, mainly due to funding and accessibility – The oceans are a big place.
As a Marine Park and a registered shark and Turtle sanctuary you’d think there would be more research taking place with Turtles here in Raja Ampat. Conservation International, Nature Conservancy and WWF have all done work to protect Sea Turtles in the area and are trying to educate the local community about alternative proteins in their diet other than sea Turtle meat and eggs. There still currently are no formal rules regarding Sea Turtle capture or nesting area protection in the Raja Ampat Regency.
Unfortunately there is not much in water research happening. Here’s where our project comes in, what’s’ the main reason visitors come to Raja Ampat….Yes that’s’ right for Scuba Diving and Snorkelling. Our aim is to use the eyes and cameras of our divers and snorkelers to help build up a record of all Turtle sightings within the area and the sites that we visit. We hope to help shed light to the number of sea Turtles we here, provide more details as to the population distribution, behaviours and population make up i.e. adults, sub adults, juveniles. We plan to initially log this data with seaturtle.orgs national sea turtle sighting data base. We hope after initial trials with our guests to help fine tune an effective logging method that we will be able to set up a network within Raja Ampat for all the resorts and liveaboards in the area to contribute to. With time and information we hope this data will provide key information to help establish an official ruling for the protection and conservation of Sea Turtles in the area.
This is the beginning of a long term project which we hope will help save and understand these amazing creature more. For further details about sea turtles and Raja Ampat please visit our conservation pages on our web site, or come and join Mem and the team and meet some turtles face to face.