Magnetic Island North Queensland
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A young koala's beach adventure

October 30th 2008
Dim your lights for sea turtle nesting season

A flatback turtle digs a nest at Nelly Bay The nesting season for sea turtles has just begun and in the next few months many turtles will come ashore on Magnetic Island beaches to dig their nests and lay their eggs. This prehistoric ritual has worked for sea turtles for over 100,000 years and ensured their continued existence. Now this ritual is under threat from many sources, most of them created by humans.

Sea Turtle Foundation has teamed up with Burdekin Dry Tropics Natural Resource Management to print and distribute a brochure called 'Sea Turtles and Lights' to beachfront residents along the Burdekin Dry Tropics coast where sea turtle nesting occurs. This includes Townsville and Magnetic Island. Many people are not aware that The Strand is actually a turtle nesting beach and that sea turtles may apprear in odd spots and even try to cross roads near the beach as occurred in 2002 at Nelly Bay near base backpackers.

The brochure highlights actions local residents can take to help in the protection of sea turtles. Bright artificial lights on beaches at night can confuse turtle hatchlings and they will crawl towards the light rather than the ocean. The hatchlings may then get run over on roads, eaten by predators or overheat in the morning sun.

"We need to involve local residents in the protection of sea turtles to ensure their future in our oceans," said Gitte Kragh, Project Manager for Sea Turtle Foundation. She continued, "We are working with Burdekin Dry Tropics NRM to get the community involved and make residents aware of the impacts of beachfront lighting."

But residents are not the only targets of the campaign - "We will also be contacting councils, including Townsville City Council, as much of the lighting which disturbs turtles comes from street and car park lighting. We need to ensure the safety of humans and turtles alike," Gitte said.

Actions you can take to safeguard the hatchlings on your beachfront include keeping outside lights to a minimum, planting vegetation between your lights and the beach, fitting curtains or blinds to your beach front windows, and collecting hatchlings you find crawling away from the beach and releasing them back on the beach away from artificial lights.

"Six of the seven species of sea turtles in the world are found along the Queensland coasts and we have an obligation to protect these iconic creatures. They are all listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered and we need the local communities to rally to their aid so future generations can experience these ancient mariners", states Dr Andrea Phillott, sea turtle biologist from James Cook University.

You can also help by advising Sea Turtle Foundation when you see turtle tracks on the beach through the Turtle Track Monitoring Program. You can SMS 0431 259 129 or email tracks@seaturtlefoundation.org with the date, time and exact location of your sightings. This data will then be displayed on the Sea Turtle Foundation website, www.seaturtlefoundation.org, so residents can see where nesting occurs.

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Dim your lights for sea turtle nesting season
 
5 comments
 
Barbara
October 30th 2008
One very important reason to maintain a healthy supply of turtles is that they like to feast on box jelly fish...a problem species for swimmers that escalated with over-harvesting of turtle eggs and development in the North destroying their habitats...and to a degree, trawling in the '70s.
 
Allyson
October 30th 2008
Can anyone tell which beaches the turtles nest on? And does Parks and Wildlife do anything to protect their sites?
 
Mal Hamilton
October 31st 2008
Everything possible needs to be done to protect turtles, their nesting sites and habitats. In my job as a tour guide I visit Radical Bay and West Point up to five days a week and I find it disheartening to see tyre tracks on the beach despite the signage and evidence of fires. National Parks do not have enough people on the ground to monitor every beach on the island, it is up to concerned individuals to inform visitors to the island that vehicles are not permitted on the beach and no fires are allowed. Most people are sympathetic when informed of the facts, but some individuals become belligerent.

It's a pity that advertisements for 4WD's invariably show the vehicle bashing along some isolated beach, and others think it's their god-given right to light fires for whatever reason.

Bollards along all the beaches may prevent vehicle incursions, but may also prevent the actual nesting, as the photo shows the turtles come very high up the beach.

Why don't some concerned people organize a citizen beach patrol during nesting season? This would raise awareness, help protect the turtles and educate the public at the same time. An information pack could be provided, with hotlines to report nestings, vehicles and fires, even an ID disk of some kind to lend a bit of authority.

Correct me if I'm wrong, isn't it true that only 1 in 1000 turtle hatchlings will grow to adult size? If so, the other 999 hatchlings become part of the food chain, affecting the future catch for recreational anglers. Even these people know that removing part of the food chain will have dire consequences.
 
chasmac
October 31st 2008
Allyson, you can see from the picture that there is a regular nesting site about 100m from XBase at the southern end of Nelly Bay. National Parks regularly signpost the site and try to discourage motorists and pedestrians from disturbing it. You can tell from the photo how difficult this is - and it isn't going to get easier.
Nesting tracks are regularly seen at Horseshoe Bay and the West Point area.

 
Allyson
November 1st 2008
Mal and chasmac, thank you for that. I gather from what you're saying that the turtles can nest on any island beach.
I've seen 4 wheel drives and trail bikes on the beach dunes down at Horseshoe. Parks and Wildlife advised me to note details but not to approach people. I don't know if there's much they can do, but with trail bikes, I think they'd need a lot more than bollards. Unfortunately, these people also remove natural obstacles, like tree trunks, that P&W set up to protect the area. Given the wildlife here, including mating koalas, its more of a shame than I can say.


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