(CAIRNS, AUSTRALIA) – Visitors to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park are urged to watch out for marine turtles and their hatchlings during the summer months.
With marine turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs and baby hatchlings making their way to the water, people are likely to encounter one of nature’s most ancient and fascinating creatures.
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority species conservation expert Dr Mark Read said the community could do their bit to ensure these turtles nest safely and hatchlings had a good chance of survival.
“Six of the world’s seven species of marine turtles live in the Great Barrier Reef and it is important we take care of the turtles in our Australian nursery,” Dr Read said.
“At this time of year it is imperative not to interfere with turtles, their hatchlings or eggs.
“Anything humans can do to make their life easier will assist the species to recover after severe weather events such as cyclones and floods experienced in 2010 and 2011.”
If you are lucky enough to witness a turtle nesting be sure to follow the GBRMPA’s Responsible Reef Practices:
- Do not approach a turtle emerging from the water or moving up the beach
- On sighting a turtle emerging from the water, keep still and turn off all lights until laying begins
- Do not alter the environment in any way
- Limit the use of light by turning torches off whenever possible and viewing with ambient light. Turtles may get confused by artificial light and may not finish nesting.
The community also needs to give young turtle hatchlings the best chance of survival:
- Stay well clear (at least two metres) of nests where hatchlings are emerging
- Limit the use of light and never shine lights directly onto hatchlings as hatchlings may become confused by artificial light and may not make it to the ocean
- Use low wattage torches (less than three-volt, two-cell) with red cellophane or a filter over the bulb
- Do not shine torches out to sea when hatchlings are in the water – this may cause the hatchlings to return to shore
- If you live close to the beach, make sure all outside lights are turned off and your curtains are drawn to restrict light.
Boaties can also do their bit when out on the water to help protect turtles or hatchlings moving to and from the water and land.
- Be on the look out for surfacing turtles in areas such as shallow reef flats and seagrass meadows – travel slowly in these areas, with no wake
- If a turtle is close to your vessel, engage neutral and allow the animal to swim away undisturbed
- Do not encircle or trap turtles with vessels. Allow an escape route
- Do not pursue turtles if they try to avoid the vessel or flee the area.