Beach users are asked to take special care during the summer months as marine turtles begin their age-old ritual of coming ashore to lay eggs.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority species conservation expert Dr Mark Read said allowing turtles to nest undisturbed gives their eggs a better chance of survival.

“We’re lucky enough to have six of the world's seven species of marine turtles living on our doorstep in the Reef, with four of these species nesting here in the Great Barrier Reef Region,” Dr Read said.

“These creatures, however, live a precarious existence – they’re slow-growing, they take 30 to 50 years to reach breeding age, and it’s thought that only one in 1000 will make it to maturity.

"Green turtles in particular have had a tough time in recent years because of cyclones and floods destroying their seagrass which is their main food source. As a result, we need to help the species recover wherever we can.

“The best thing residents and visitors can do is to stay clear of turtles and not interfere with them, their eggs or hatchlings – this will help these beautiful creatures to produce another generation.

“And if you’re a dog-owner, it’s important to restrain your pet when you’re walking along a beach where marine turtles are known to nest, so they don’t harm the turtles or their off-spring.”

Dr Read said visitors should be particularly mindful of how they use beaches at night and in the early morning.

“This is when some of the beaches really come alive with activity – whether it be female turtles clambering on to the beach to nest, or hatchlings starting their maiden voyage out to sea,” Dr Read said.

“It’s best to limit the use of light by turning torches off whenever possible and only viewing turtles with ambient light.

“Artificial light can confuse adult turtles which may disturb their nesting or prevent them from coming ashore. And in the case of hatchlings, any artificial light shined directly on them can cause them to lose direction as they attempt to make their way to the ocean.”

As part of their life-cycle, turtles nest in the region where they first emerged out of the sand as hatchlings. Here, they lay anywhere from 50 to more than 100 eggs during fortnightly trips to the beach.

Once a female turtle finishes laying several clutches of eggs, she returns to her feeding or foraging area, leaving the eggs and the developing hatchlings on their own.

All of the Reef’s marine turtles are threatened species and are either listed as endangered or vulnerable under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

To report sick, injured, stranded or dead turtles please call 1300 ANIMAL (1300 264 625).