Initial research for the program will focus on gathering more information on flatbacks. Much of their lifecycle is unknown and there is not a clear understanding of how many turtles there are in WA, or where they breed, forage and mate.

Current research is focussed on answering the following questions:

Biological knowledge gaps:

  • Where are the nesting beaches and when are the turtles nesting?
  • Where are the foraging areas, migration routes and mating areas?
  • How related are turtles from different nesting beaches – are most turtles in WA from the same breeding population or do they make up several different populations?
  • Do individual turtles nest at different beaches and do they always return to their natal beach (where they hatched) to lay eggs?
  • Do turtles from different rookeries forage in different places or are there common feeding grounds?
  • Where do turtles go and what habitats do they use once they have hatched?
  • What is the role that flatbacks play in the ecosystem?
  • What do they eat and how do they forage for food?

Monitoring trends in the population:

  • What is the benchmark abundance (numbers) for nesting flatbacks in WA?
  • Is the abundance of the North West Shelf stock remaining stable?
  • How can we tell if the Gorgon Project is having a significant impact on the wider stock?
  • How can technology improve monitoring? (For example remote cameras, aerial survey, satellite technology)
  • What are the best places to set up monitoring programs for flatbacks?

Pressure/ Threats

  • What are the main sources of mortality in flatbacks?
  • What are the main pressures (threats) to turtles and how might these impact turtles over space and time?
  • How does climate change and increasing temperatures effect populations.
  • What are some other potential impacts? (For example radioactivity on Montebello Islands)
  • Can we model future distributions of nesting or foraging flatbacks to plan for protected areas?