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What can turtle tagging tell us?

Ever wondered about some of the benefits of tagging turtles? Flipper tags are a valuable tool for estimating turtle populations, but they can also provide a valuable insight into the lives of individual turtles. 
Recently, I was lucky enough to be able to help out on a research trip to the Howick group of islands in the northern Great Barrier Reef as part of the Queensland Government’s on-going Turtle Conservation Project. During our time there we caught, measured and tagged almost 650 green and hawksbill turtles.

One of the turtles caught was a beautiful old green turtle who has been in the Queensland government database for 33 years! The turtle affectionately know as T11246 was first tagged when she nested at Raine Island in 1984. Yes, back when Wham were one of the biggest pop groups around and we were all wearing lacy finger-less gloves, this turtle was laying her eggs at the world’s largest green turtle rookery.

Female green turtles usually start breeding somewhere between the ages of 25-50 years of age, so this is one old girl. Not only does this give us some indication of how long turtles are staying around, but it also clearly demonstrates the links between feeding and nesting locations among turtle populations of Queensland. The feeding grounds at Coombe Reef, where she was caught this year, are over 300 kilometers from her nesting beach on Raine Island.

It is very important that anyone who finds a flipper tag reports it to the relevant people. In Queensland, this is the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP)

If you see a, turtle dead or alive, which has a flipper tag please provide this information to the Queensland Government. The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection have been leading flipper tagging activities in Queensland for several decades to study the migration and life cycle of marine turtles. You can contribute to this important research!


  • The number stamped on the tag
  • When, how and where the turtle was caught or seen
  • What happened to the turtle
  • A GPS point of where you found the turtle (if you have a GPS)
  • Your name and contact details (optional)

Don’t remove the tag from the turtle unless it has died!

Send this information to: Dr. Col Limpus ( Dr. Ian Bell ( or phone 07 3170 5617

If you recover a tag from a dead turtle, please send it with the details above to:

Queensland Turtle Research Department of Environment & Heritage Protection GPO Box 2454 Brisbane QLD 4001