We're counting how many turtles are nesting on beaches in the Gulf of Carpentaria and islands in the northern Great Barrier Reef, islands in the southern Barrier Reef. We're going out into the coastal waters here in Moreton Bay, up in Shoalwater Bay, Gladstone Harbour, the reefs in the northern Barrier Reef, counting the turtles...looking at how they're breeding and growing in their shallow water habitats that they live in.
Dr Col Limpus: [00:00:31]
Raine Island is really the jewel in the crown for the Great Barrier Reef. It has the biggest concentration of breeding seabirds for the whole of the Barrier Reef. And it has the biggest concentration of breeding green turtles in the world.
Dr Col Limpus: [00:00:47]
Understanding the functioning of an island is not just a biological question. We need an input of information from geomorphologists, from the oceanographers, the people who study the seabirds, the turtles. There's a whole range of skills that have got to be brought together.
Dr Col Limpus: [00:01:03]
I first visited Raine Island in 1975 and that's the beginning of the scientific monitoring of the population. We next came back to look at the hatchlings in February of 1997. To our horror we found dead eggs, down in the sand. A water table that was flooding eggs. We've come to the conclusion that the depth of sand has decreased. The first attempt to make a change to the beach, where the sand was heaped up to increase depthand then over the next couple of years does it improve the nesting success? Does it improve hatching success? The results are looking promising. So they're now expanding that to a longer length of beach, shifting sand up, making it deeper, progressively testing to make sure we're getting it right.
The 2300km Great Barrier Reef is home to an abundance of wildlife with more than 1600 types of fish, 30 species of whales and dolphins, and 215 species of birds including 22 species of seabirds and 32 species of shorebirds. It is also home to marine turtle species which are experiencing a decline in their populations.
Marine scientists and conservationists are monitoring and undertaking action to protect marine turtles and their habitat.
On the Great Barrier Reef you can find six of the seven marine turtle species in the world. Unfortunately, four of these turtles are on the endangered species list (loggerhead, olive ridley, hawksbill and leatherback) and two are considered to be vulnerable (green and flatback).
The threat of predation on marine turtle nests and hatchlings is a key concern for the sustainability of turtle populations in coastal Queensland. To address this, marine turtle rookeries along the coast have been identified under the Nest to Ocean Turtle Protection Program for active nest protection and predator control efforts to reduce the threat posed by feral pigs and other predator species.
This is why the Queensland Government is working with research organisations, industry, conservationists and Traditional Owners to take action to protect marine turtle species across Queensland.
Raine Island on the northern most tip of the Great Barrier Reef is home to the world’s largest green turtle nesting population and the most important seabird rookery in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
Each year variable numbers of female green turtles, from a few thousand to approaching 100,000, swim thousands of kilometres from their feeding grounds in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Arnhem Land, Gulf of Carpentaria, the Torres Strait and the Coral Sea Region, to Raine Island—at the northern end of the Great Barrier Reef—to lay their eggs on its sandy beach.
With the Raine Island ecosystem under threat and turtle deaths, varying from a few tens to thousands per breeding season, urgent action is being taken to protect the island’s marine wildlife and its habitat, particularly the nesting beaches of green turtles.
Now a collaboration of partners is working to help the green turtles. The Raine Island Recovery Project is a five year, $7.95 million public-private collaboration involving BHP, the Queensland Government, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Wuthathi and Kemer Kemer Meriam Nation (Ugar, Mer, Erub) Traditional Owners and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.
Find out more about what is being done to protect Raine Island’s precious ecosystem.
Endangered loggerhead turtles nest at Mon Repos in Bundaberg, home to the most significant loggerhead turtle nesting population in the South Pacific.
Queensland’s loggerhead turtle research program has been running for 50 years, focusing on the Mon Repos turtle rookery. Satellite technology is used to track turtle movements to understand migratory patterns and habitat under threat.
Visitors are welcome at the Mon Repos Turtle Centre to learn about loggerhead turtles and participate in a guided turtle encounter by highly experienced and knowledgeable Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service rangers.
From the Great Barrier Reef to Moreton Bay, all Queensland waterways are connected. There are things all of us can do to help. For example, avoiding littering, wherever you live, will prevent litter getting into waterways and making its way to the Great Barrier Reef. If you live in Reef catchment areas, you can make sure soil and fertiliser stays on your property.