Green turtles are turning up in large numbers on Queensland beaches this nesting season, with minor sites like Magnetic Island even seeing more turtles than they have for many years.
Minister for Environment Leeanne Enoch said Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) rangers and volunteers are reporting a spike in turtle numbers on Magnetic Island, just off Townsville.
“Normally we only see one or two green turtles nesting on Magnetic Island each season, while some seasons there aren’t any at all,” Ms Enoch said.
“QPWS has recorded 15 nests on the island this season – with 12 of them found in Horseshoe Bay – and some of the eggs have already hatched.
“The rangers and volunteers have said it’s been a bit of a novelty to watch the hatchlings make their way to the water. It’s not a sight they see too often.”
Many more hatchlings were expected to emerge between now and March, when turtle season ends.
QPWS Magnetic Island ranger Jo Petersen said the island was not a major turtle nesting site, like Mon Repos.
“We mostly get flatbacks here, but this year we’ve also received reports of green turtles nesting, which is pretty unusual.”
Department of Environment and Science’s Dr Colin Limpus, who has been visiting Gladstone regularly for decades as part of the green turtle monitoring program, said the influx of green turtles was all down to the weather.
“Green turtle nesting varies from year to year, and what we are seeing on beaches, from the Great Barrier Reef right down to parts of New South Wales – where turtles don’t normally nest – is a result of the weather we experienced 18 months ago,” Dr Limpus said.
“This is a big year for green turtles and it is directly associated with the reduced rainfall we experienced in 2016 as part of the El Nino Southern Oscillation weather cycle.”
Dr Limpus said the fluctuation in green turtle numbers was a natural phenomenon and would continue to vary in response to different weather patterns.
“Following the floods of 2011, for example, there were hardly any green turtles recorded nesting in the following year,” Dr Limpus said.
The public can assist in the success of turtle nesting by following a few simple guidelines:
- Do not disturb nesting turtles – light, noise and movement can cause turtles to turn back without nesting. Keep at least 50m away from the turtle
- Don’t light fires on the beaches – the light can disorientate turtles and destroy eggs in the nest
- Keep vehicles off sand dunes and beaches – vehicles compact the sand and crush the eggs
- Control your dogs and prevent them from digging up turtle nests