Watch out for turtles this nesting season

Watch out for turtles this nesting season

November marks the start of the turtle nesting season, and with three species of turtles, Flatback; Green and Loggerhead, choosing to nest in our region, residents are being urged to be turtle aware.

Harbour Watch Project Officer and long term turtle researcher Karl French said major issues affecting nesting turtles included people driving 4WDs on the dunes at Lilley’s Beach, Boyne Island, and on Facing Island.

“Turtles excavate nests in the dunes above the reach of high tides and storms,” he said.

“Damage to the dunes can compact the sand, trapping hatchlings in nests, or causing vegetation loss, which can then allow erosion and storm activity to expose the nests.

“Loss of vegetation can also lead to a rise in sand temperature. The temperature of the sand is critical for incubation of the eggs, and also determines the sex of the hatchlings.

“If the temperature gets too high the developing embryos in the eggs will be killed. Recent hot dry summers have seen a spike in egg mortality.

“There are concerns about how turtles will manage under projected temperature rises associated with climate change.”

Nesting activity usually takes place around the evening high tides, with a peak in late November through to the end of December, depending on species.

Hatchlings emerge about eight weeks after laying, depending on species and incubation temperatures.

Karl said minimising external lighting, and direct lighting on beaches, is also important to allow adult female turtles to emerge undisturbed, and is important for hatchlings to be able to orientate towards the sea.

“Artificial lighting has been recorded to be responsible for hatchlings wandering away from the ocean and congregating under street lighting,” he said.

“The female turtles are most at risk of disturbance when they first emerge from the ocean.

“If you see a turtle emerging, turn off lights and torches and sit still and wait until the turtle has moved up into the dunes.

“This can be a slow laborious journey, but allowing them to get into the dunes and settle provides a greater opportunity for the turtle to successfully nest.”

The Fitzroy Basin Association runs a community-based citizen science program called Team Turtle CQ, which monitors nesting turtle activity across the Fitzroy Basin Region from Stanage Bay to Wild Cattle Island.

Local volunteers report turtle tracks on beaches, and the activity is checked and recorded with the data entered into the Queensland Turtle Conservation Programs Database.

Anyone interested in learning more should contact the FBA on admin@fba.org.au or 4999 2800.

Photos courtesy of Karl French