Tips for navigating turtle traffic

Published: 27/01/2016

The moment a marine turtle hatchling pokes its head out of its sandy nest the odds are against it, but beach goers can give these tiny creatures a better chance during their dash to the ocean.

Hatchlings are beginning to emerge on Queensland beaches after female turtles came ashore to nest earlier in summer. 

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority acting field management director Dr Mark Read said everyone could make a difference to reduce the risks and improve hatchlings’ chance of survival. 

"A hatchling’s run to the ocean is a dangerous time — they must avoid native and introduced predators, humans and even our pets," he said. 

"If anyone spots a hatchling, they should let it make its run to the water undisturbed.” 

Local councils and volunteers are also playing a crucial role in protecting turtle hatchlings during their first hours. 

“If a local council is aware of a nest, they’ll often put a fence up around it to protect the eggs and hatchlings and many local councils have installed turtle-friendly lighting along foreshores to minimise the chance of hatchlings and nesting adults moving in the wrong direction. Beach goers can help by reporting any nests they find,” Dr Read said. 

"If we’re to succeed in helping the populations of these iconic and threatened species they must get off to a good start. 

“Once the hatchlings have made their way to the ocean, people can do their bit by not throwing any rubbish, including fishing line or plastic bags, on the beach or in the ocean. 

"The hatchlings we protect today will be part of the population that mate and lay eggs in about 30 years’ time. Given a turtle will lay somewhere between 3,000 and 10,000 eggs over its lifetime, we have a responsibility to look after these creatures for future generations." 

Tips for beachgoers:

  • Stay well clear (at least two metres) of nests where hatchlings are emerging
  • Watch your step — you may accidentally crush hatchlings underfoot or cover them with sand
  • Limit the use of light and never shine lights directly onto hatchlings — they may become confused by artificial light and may not make it to the ocean
  • Use low wattage torches 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 them to return to shore
  • Allow hatchlings to dig themselves out of the nest and run to the sea without disturbance or assistance
  • Do not touch or handle hatchlings
  • Never interfere with natural events (for example, rescuing hatchlings from seabirds or predatory fish)
  • Keep dogs are on a leash so hatchlings are not harassed or attacked while trying to cross the beach.

Name: GBRMPA media
Contact: (07) 4750 0846