Tracks belonging to an egg-laden female turtle have been spotted on Clarkes Beach.
Local resident Rob Asquith, who snapped a picture of the tracks at around 6:30am on Monday morning, said they were only about 50 metres from the Beach Café.
‘I just hope she found somewhere to lay her eggs,’ Mr Asquith said. ‘It’s unusual that we see them in the Bay.’
Holly West, a project officer with NSW TurtleWatch, said the tracks belonged to a green turtle and were consistent with a mother trying to find a nesting place.
‘They come out, try and find a spot to nest and can’t… She’s hit the sandbags and come back in.’
Ms West said the turtle would soon try again to visit a beach and lay, and members of the public should keep their eyes open.
Anyone who sees turtle activity or turtle tracks should report the sighting to NSW TurtleWatch, which is a project of the NSW Government and Australian Seabird Rescue.
Climate change means more turtles down south
Laying turtles usually return to the beach that they hatched on, or nearby, according to Ms West.
‘They have a really good inbuilt GPS,’ she said.
But sand temperature determines the gender of the hatchlings, with warmer beaches in Queensland producing females and cooler sands further down the coast producing males. That means female turtles rarely come to lay in Byron and surrounds.
‘We’re not producing females on NSW beaches, so the turtles coming here are kind of outliers,’ Ms West said.
However, rising average temperatures due to climate change mean that the sands of northern NSW could be producing more females in years ahead.
‘These nests in NSW could be one way that females cope with climate change in the future,’ Ms West said.