Image: Isabel Beasley, James Cook University

Sea snakes are a national conservation priority given their declining numbers around Australia, and in particular Western Australia which once was a region of high seasnake abundance.

All of Australia’s sea snakes are listed marine species under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). Two of the species that are endemic to north-western Australia are Critically Endangered (the Leaf-scaled Sea snake, Aipysurus foliosquama, and the Short-nosed Sea snake, Aipysurus apraefrontalis) and one is Endangered (the Dusky Sea snake, Aipysurus fuscus).

Pressures affecting seasnakes include fishing and trawling, habitat modification and climate change. The causes of recently observed declines have not been defined, however, and an improved understanding of the population status, abundance and distribution of Australian seasnake populations is needed to assist with EPBC listings and the implementation of management and recovery plans.

This project will use existing data to define the species range and distribution of key sea snake species in Australia’s North-west Marine Region, examine relative abundance between habitats and identify habitat preferences (where possible).

Results of the research will help define species status, identify knowledge gaps, assist in EPBC species listing and recovery planning where required, and guide effective conservation management of sea snakes in Australian waters.