Our Turtle Monitoring Project in Raja Ampat
We are very excited to announce our new project run by our resident Marine Biologist in the monitoring and recording of Sea Turtles in the area.
Sea Turtles can be considered the ambassadors of the seas – They are one of the few species that cross the land / marine divide and have been on this earth for millions of years. They are vital not only to the marine ecosystem but for the terrestrial coastline as well.
Sea Turtles are extremely important for the marine environment. They play a myriad of roles in the marine ecosystem, which are:
- maintaining productive coral reef ecosystems
- providing a habitat for other marine life to live upon
- helping maintain seagrass beds
- controlling jellyfish populations
- providing food for other fish and marine organisms.
Another important thing they are facilitating nutrient cycling from marine to terrestrial. They transport and place (eggs) essential nutrients from the oceans to beaches worldwide.
Green Turtles and Hawksbills are the two main species that we see here in Raja Ampat Archipel. Green Sea Turtles are the only vegetarian Species of Sea Turtle, they eat are grasses and algae. We have many sea grass beds within the area and the green turtles trim these beds (along with Dougongs) allowing healthy new shoots to grow increasing the grass beds productivity. If the Sea Grass beds were left unattended the overgrown grasses would create an environment where the growth of Slime molds would thrive suffocating the production of new shoots and other algae. Sea grass are vital for nutrient cycling and proving a number of juvenile fish, be it horses, molluscs and other crustations to name a few.
Hawksbills are vital to the maintenance of coral reefs systems, our reefs in Raja Ampat host the highest number of different coral species in the world. Making up the most Bio-diverse systems worldwide. A little known fact that sponges which make up the reefs are huge competitors for reef space, they are faster growing than corals and if they are allowed to they will suffocate corals as they grow.
Hawksbills love to eat sponges and therefore play a vital role in the maintenance of the reef. Without them trimming back the sponges the reefs would not have such a verity of hard corals. As the Hawkbills rip the sponges apart they make them over to other animals to eat, as sponges have an exterior that many smaller animals can not penetrate.
More is known and documented about Sea Turtle nesting and the number of hatchlings emerging from most other areas of Sea Turtle research. Many other projects include satellite tagging programs to monitor where turtles are going at different times of year. We know from tracking information that Turtles cover large areas and spend different amounts of time in different areas, what we do not know is what they are doing in these areas.year. We know from tracking information that Turtles cover large areas and spend different amounts of time in different areas, what we don’t always know is what they are doing in these areas.
In-water observations is a vital source of information to help fill in the blanks in these areas.observations is a vital source of information to help fill in the blanks in these areas.
By simply recording sightings at different locations and also recording when Turtles were not sighted along with what the Turtles were doing when they were sighted will provide a wealth of information Sea Turtle Researches just do not have access to but fun of every day.
Recording the Species sighted its approximate size, any distinguishing features and color, what it was doing such as Feeding, Sleeping, Swimming or coming up for air will be a huge amount of information that Raja Ampat can contribute to Turtle Research and ultimately its protection conservation Raja Ampat was Declared a Sea Turtle (and Shark) sanctuary in 2012, but since then a has – been there very little happening to record, monitor or even protect the Turtles of the area.
We hope that our Turtle Monitoring Project will help to increase conservation efforts in the area. All being well we hope to be able to collaborate with other Dive Centers and liveaboards in the area to also record their sightings.
If you have not read enough about turtles and about our turtle monitoring project, we have some interesting facts about sea turtles for you in this article. just click here.