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Turtles

An ancient mariner, the Green sea turtle. Photo by Eva McClure.Relics from a time before the dinosaurs, sea turtles have existed for over 150 million years. Turtles live long lives, often not becoming adults for decades, and regularly travel thousands of miles between feeding and nesting areas.

Marine turtles have a large shell called a carapace, paddle-like flippers and like all reptiles, lungs for breathing air. Sea turtles do not have teeth, but their jaws have modified "beaks" that they use to shear or crush food, such as jellyfish and small bony fish.

Six species of sea turtle have been recorded in Moreton Bay Marine Park including the Green, Loggerhead, Hawksbill, Leatherback, Olive Ridley and Flatback. The Bay supports the most significant loggerhead turtle population in Australia. All six species are threatened with extinction and need our protection.

Threats

On average, a staggering 200 turtles are reported dead, injured or sick in Moreton Bay Marine Park every year. Turtles are struck by motor boats and become entangled and drown in discarded crab pots, fishing nets and rubbish. Up to 50 deaths a year are attributed to boat strike.

Turtles also eat plastic debris (perhaps thinking they are jellyfish, a favourite food), which once ingested can prevent food digestion and lead to a very slow and painful death.

Disease is also a major contributor to turtle deaths and may in part be linked to pollution and environmental stress.

Pollution, turbid waters and boat traffic have reduced the distribution of seagrass meadows in Moreton Bay which is a primary food source for Green turtles. Unexpected flooding events like those that occurred in 2011 place significantly more stress on turtles as tonnes of sediment, contaminants and debris flush into the Bay.

After the 2011 floods there was an increase in sick turtles in Moreton Bay. Dr Kathy Townsend from the University of Queensland's Moreton Bay Research Station was providing emergency care for sick and starving turtles after the floods. Watch the video of three rehabilitated turtles being released back in to the Bay below:

Turtle Release A Team Effort from The University of Queensland on Vimeo.

Researcher Dr Kathy Townsend from The University of Queensland's Moreton Bay Research Station along with volunteers from Earth Watch Australia and Underwater World have released 4 rehabilitated turtles into Moreton Bay

Solutions

  • Where possible use propeller guards on your boat to avoid striking turtles. When boating in the bay, take your time. Look out for turtles and motor carefully to avoid boat strikes. Get the Moreton Bay Marine Park User Guide and know where the ‘go slow’ zones are and obey the rules.
  • Don’t throw rubbish or chemicals overboard when you are boating in the bay and always put rubbish in the bin when you are on land.
  • Try and use natural cleaning products in your home (eg bi-carb soda and vinegar) to reduce nutrients and chemicals going into the bay.
  • If you go fishing, make sure you do not leave any fishing gear behind and always remove unused crab pots once you are finished with them.

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