We aim to expand our knowledge on the current distribution of sea snakes on Australia's coasts, particularly for one species, Hydrophis platurus, the yellow-bellied sea snake. Although sea snakes are protected species in Australia, the IUCN Sea Snake Specialist group has identified that 34% of all sea snake species are 'data deficient', which makes it difficult to implement effective conservation management.
Our project seeks to improve current understanding of species composition and abundance in Australian waters. Recent DNA sequencing of sea snakes in the Gulf of Carpentaria revealed two new species and there are likely many more cryptic species waiting to be discovered, but we lack tissue samples from many parts of Australia so cannot find them.
Our secondary goal is to promote understanding and respect for sea snakes. Although snakes are frequently encountered (e.g. by tourists snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef or workers on prawn trawlers), many people hold misconceptions on whether these snakes can bite (they can!) or whether they are venomous (they are!). By extending public outreach we have hope to dispel myths, while also encouraging a curiosity of, these remarkable marine reptiles.