Southern Australian Sea Turtles (SAST)

The Southern Australian Sea Turtle (SAST) project brings together publicly and privately held information on sea turtles for the southern Australian region. This information feeds directly into research and conservation policies for these highly threatened marine species, with worldwide impact.

We want to learn more about why sea turtles congregate off the coast of southern Australia. There's a huge knowledge gap that we aim to fill, and reports from the community will be vital.


Southern Australian waters may be significant

Since it began in April 2014, the project's gathered sighting and stranding records that weren't previously kept in any one place. Five out of the six species of sea turtle have been recorded in southern waters off South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania. This suggests that the region may be more important than previously thought for migration and foraging.

If you see turtles in distress

You can play a vital role in the conservation of these beautiful turtles by being alert and vigilant if you see a turtle in distress. If you see any stranded, entangled or sick sea turtles, please take the following steps.

  • Report it the Department of Environment and Primary Industries on 136 186.
  • Alternatively, phone RACV Wildlife Connect, 13 11 11, to contact the nearest wildlife organisation.
  • After reporting, please make sure to come back to our site and fill in a sighting report.

Report a sighting

These turtles range across large areas of ocean, meaning they're not easily monitored using more formal methods such as surveys. The Southern Australian Sea Turtle project relies on public contributions of sea turtle sightings, dead or alive. Were also very interested in historical records.

To report your sighting please complete the online sighting form below or email us. We may contact you if we require further information. All the records we collect will be added to state and commonwealth wildlife sightings databases.

Which turtle is that?

It’s good to be familiar with the various species of sea turtle and their features so you can accurately report sightings. But remember, it’s always worth taking a photo if you spot a turtle so that we can confirm identification later.

Leatherback turtles

The leatherback is the largest, growing up to 2m in length. Leatherbacks have a soft shell (hence the name) and a series of keels that run along the shell from the head to tail.

Hard-shelled turtles

Hard-shelled turtles include the loggerhead turtle, the green turtle and the hawksbill turtle. These species can be distinguished by the patterns on the plates (scutes) on the shell and the shape of the head.

Bringing information together

Our database brings together records of sea turtles from state and commonwealth government wildlife databases, newspaper articles, reports from commercial and recreational fish operators, and anecdotal sightings as early as 1889.

Since April 2014 we've gathered more than 209 sea turtle sightings from across the southern Australian region, including waters off South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania.

A project with worldwide impact

Sea turtles are endangered in many places around the world, due to legal and illegal hunting, fishery by-catch and boat collisions.

Sea turtles are some of the most accomplished long-distance migrators on the planet, often travelling long distances between their breeding and feeding areas. The coasts of South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania are far from the nearest breeding sites for sea turtles, yet turtles make the journey to the area to feed.

We aim to assess the importance of Southern Australian waters as a key foraging habitat. This research will drive knowledge-based conservation management and minimise incidental deaths in the area.

If we can educate the public about how the sea turtles use this area, that knowledge can be translated into similar situations worldwide.

Working together

Deakin University’s Professor Graeme Hays and Dr Margie Morrice have developed the project in collaboration with southern Australian marine fauna researchers and database managers.

Visit Professor Hays’ profile

Visit Dr Morrice’s profile

Contact us

Project Leader
Professor Graeme Hays
Email Professor Hays

Deakin University
PO Box 423
Warrnambool, VIC 3265