Marine turtles

Our region’s waters, beaches and islands provide foraging and nesting habitat for four of Australia’s six species of marine turtles. All are considered to be either Vulnerable to extinction or Endangered. See below for a description of each turtle species, their habitat and distribution within the Fitzroy Basin Region, and their conservation status. Information on the key threats marine turtles face and the actions we can do to minimise those threats are also identified below.

FBA engaged Ecosure to prepare a Marine Turtle Summary Report that outlines the distribution and abundance of marine turtles within the region and the threats impacting their survival. The report is funded through the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme and enables FBA to assess opportunities to contribute to the conservation and management of turtle nesting areas and to prioritise funding allocations to ensure the best conservation outcomes are achieved. Download a copy of the report.

Species descriptions

Green turtle (Chelonia mydas)

Green turtles have an olive-green back with a whitish or cream belly, and grow to about a metre in length. Their shell usually has a distinctive brown, black and reddish pattern. An estimated 8,000 females nest in the Southern Great Barrier Reef area, mostly in the Capricorn-Bunker group of islands.

Habitat and distribution within the region

Green turtles are commonly found in the waters surrounding Broad Sound Islands National Park, Capricorn-Bunker Islands, Keppel Islands, Western Shoalwater Bay, Curtis Island and are commonly recorded as occurring in the limits of Port Alma and Port Curtis.

Conservation status

Green turtles are listed as Vulnerable under Queensland’s Nature Conservation Act 1992 and the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999.

Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta)

Loggerhead turtles grow to approximately 1.5 metres in length. They are dark brown above and lightly coloured underneath.

Habitat and distribution within the region

Loggerhead turtles are commonly found in the Capricorn-Bunker group of islands. They are also found within the limits of Port Alma and Port Curtis. This species has minor nest sites in Port Alma and Port Curtis. Between 10 and 150 females nest in the Capricorn-Bunker island group each year.

Conservation status

Loggerhead turtles are listed as Endangered under Queensland’s Nature Conservation Act 1992 and the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999.

Flatback turtle (Natator depressus)

Flatback turtles are grey pale grey-green in colour. The shells of adult flatback turtles are covered by a thin layer of skin.

Habitat and distribution within the region

Flatback turtles frequent shallow, coastal waters and are widely distributed throughout the region. Wild Duck Island and Avoid Island support two of the three largest flatback turtle rookery habitats for the Australian east coast population, with the third located at Peak Island. Curtis Island and Facing Island also host small nesting densities of flatback turtles.

Conservation status

Flatback turtles are listed as Vulnerable under Queensland’s Nature Conservation Act 1992 and the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999.

Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)

Hawksbill turtles have dark, olive-green or brown backs with strong patterns of dark brown, black and reddish brown. They have whitish bellies and grow to a metre in length.

Habitat and distribution within the region

Hawksbill turtles have been observed in Broad Sound but are not commonly seen in the region. They rarely breed within the region.

Conservation status

The hawksbill turtle is listed as Vulnerable under Queensland’s Nature Conservation Act 1992 and the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999.

Threats

Climate change, extreme weather events, coastal development, loss of foraging habitat, water quality and marine debris ingestion are the biggest threats marine turtles face within our region. Threats to breeding success are also significant and include coastal lights disorientating hatchling turtles, predation from both introduced and native animals, and human recreation, such as four-wheel-driving on beaches.

Actions

These are some of the things we, as individuals, can do to lessen the threats, and protect nesting turtles and existing rookeries.

  • Protect nests from predators such as foxes, pigs, deer and other animals.
  • Turn off lights near beaches during nesting season.
  • Minimise four-wheel-driving on beaches during the marine turtle nesting season.

The Marine Turtle Summary Report also identified the following community-based actions that will have the greatest benefit to marine turtles in our region.

  • Investigate marine debris origins and true turtle mortality rates.
  • Monitor before and after the impacts of extreme weather events.
  • Gather data about juvenile turtles caught as by-catch.
  • Investigate the cumulative impacts of industry.
  • Identify nest areas and monitor the impacts from development and other threats.
  • Coordinate a comprehensive monitoring program community awareness campaign to protect nests.

For more details about the threats to the region’s marine turtles, and the priority actions for managing those threats, download the Marine Turtle Summary Report.

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