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Byron Shire
December 8, 2022

The turtles are coming! The turtles are coming!

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If you think this Green Turtle hatchling is way too cute, then you’d be right! Photo supplied

Some of our flippered friends are getting ready to come ashore and put their babies in the sands of the east coast in the hope that the warmer temperatures will incubate their eggs and birth the next generation of sea turtles.

Sea World and Watergum are very excited to announce the start of turtle nesting season on the Gold Coast and the beginning of TurtleWatch Gold Coast monitoring activities.

Turtle sightings are a common sight in the waters surrounding the Gold Coast but until recently, it was thought that nesting activities within the region were mainly confined to isolated beaches on South Stradbroke Island. However, in recent years turtle nesting activity has been occurring more and more frequently on the busy beaches of the Goal Coast. 

Turtle hatchlings stranded

Stranded Loggerhead turtles were rescued and later released. Photo supplied.

In March of 2020, beachgoers raised the alarm when they found Loggerhead turtle hatchlings stranded in the dunes on the Southern Gold Coast after they had lost their sense of direction in response to coastal light pollution.

Since turtle hatchlings naturally use moonlight to guide them out to the ocean, bright city lights pose a threat to their survival as they draw the hatchlings inland instead.

Thanks to the quick thinking of beachgoers that morning, the hatchlings were rescued and taken to Sea World where they were then successfully rehabilitated and released back into the ocean. 

Inspired by these actions, Watergum and Sea World joined forces to create the TurtleWatch Gold Coast program, a citizen science initiative that works together with the community to monitor turtle nesting activities. 

Engaging the community

Sea World is a pioneer in marine animal rescue and rehabilitation and Watergum is a leader in community science, supporting member groups and individuals who are involved in hands-on restoration, maintenance and protection of the Gold Coast’s natural areas and species. Together, Watergum and Sea World are working to engage the community in monitoring and protecting these graceful marine animals and securing their survival for many generations to come. 

Volunteers digging at a nest site on the Gold Coast. Photo supplied.

Watergum’s TurtleWatch GC Coordinator Emily Vincent says that there is currently a data gap when it comes to turtle nesting activity on the Gold Coast. ‘This program is about engagement and awareness on marine turtles here on the Gold Coast and we need all the help we can get from the community.’

The program will teach the community how to identify turtles, their tracks and their nests so that you can log your sightings on our online database so we can ensure that Gold Coast turtles are protected. 

Sightings are important

Sea World’s Siobhan Houlihan says that many people walk along the beach every day and witness turtle activity, sometimes without even realising it. ‘These sightings are important. We want to teach people what to do if they spot a sea turtle or identify turtle tracks on the beach. We will teach them how to recognise different species, how to identify different kinds of activity also what to do if they find an injured turtle.’

There are a number of sea turtle species visiting the Gold Coast, all are listed as Nationally vulnerable or endangered, with the eggs and hatchlings being particularly defenceless. Beach tractors, light pollution, construction work, and domestic animals are just some of the threats to sea turtle activity so we are calling out for regular beachgoers to help keep an eye on them. 

Beach cleans

The groups have announced that this season they are conducting a series of beach cleans in collaboration with The Boardriders Foundation and Billabong. Billabong and The Boardriders Foundation aim to benefit and enhance the quality of life for communities across the world by supporting environmental, educational, science, water, wellness, and sustainability projects. 

The beach cleanups are on Saturday mornings in November; Tugun on the 12th, Palm Beach on the 19th. 

Full details and future beach clean events can be found on the Watergum website. 

If you spot turtle activity please log it and notify Sea World on 07 5588 2222 and 07 5588 2177 after hours. 

TurtleWatch GC Website: https://watergum.org/turtlewatch/
TurtleWatch GC Facebook Group: www.facebook.com/groups/771001743695227/ TurtleWatch GC Email: [email protected] 

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