Its Turtle season. November to April is when Australian beaches become a breeding ground for some amazing endangered flippered friends and we are all a buzz over it.
This year is particularly stressful for our global flippered travellers. Australia has essential feeding grass sea beds that turtles rely on to survive and this year the La Nina weather events on land are devastating those sea beds.
As we experience devastating floods with unprecedented high volumes of water across our 3 eastern states, that water has to flow somewhere and anyone that has watched finding Nemo knows - 'all drains lead to the ocean'. It's true for all our water ways too - they are essentially the natural drains for excess water flow of our country.
The problem with the masses of water running across these states to the ocean is that it is dumping tonnes of topsoil on the ocean bed. Now, one would believe that topsoil would be good for the grass beds, and in small doses this would be logical, but the sheer volume of soil being dumped in the ocean after these floods is smothering these ocean grass plains and killing the existing grass and further preventing new growth. Turtles are starving as a result.
Add black water - which is flood water that contains pesticides, toxins, sewage, oil, petrol and other industry based chemicals, plus tonnes of rubbish that has picked up as the floods rip through town after town taking everything not bolted down with it..... you can only imagine the sheer quantity of garbage and toxins that ends up in the ocean after one of these flood events. Being a broker we see the devastation to a house long after the black water resides - there is a reason houses exposed to black water are stripped, walls and all, after a flood... it's not about everything being wet!! It's the after effect of the black water making everything it touches toxic (and a breeding ground for noxious things like black mould). Now just imagine all that flows into the ocean - home to our turtles.
Some of the rubbish that flows to the ocean can be seen washed up on beaches in the weeks following big weather events. Scenes like the one above are common and this presents a different challenge for our turtles. Nesting mums vary in weight from 68-395kg. They drag themselves up the beach to the sand dunes in order to nest. Polluted beaches make this arduous task all the more difficult as they risk getting tangled while negotiating debris.
The other difficulty of polluted beaches happens for hatchlings. they are about 5cm when they emerge from their nest. For every 1000 hatchlings, only 1or 2 will survive until sexual maturity (30 years). Before they even get off the beach they face obstacles such as light pollution, footprints, crabs, dogs and birds. Once they hit the shore line they have a variety of other predators to contest with such as fish and birds picking them off during their 'swimming frenzy' (that can last several days) to get away from foreshore waters that have high predator numbers.
Hatchlings already have a mammoth task to survive without the added threat of polluted beaches and oceans significantly reducing survival rates. Studies show that undisturbed nests can have more than 90% of the clutch successfully hatch, where as disturbed nest (by human or animal predators) tend to have a 25% or lower success rate. Each clutch has an average of 100 eggs and a nesting turtle will lay between 2-6 clutches in a nesting season. (she will only nest every 2-3 years). If our hatchlings are not able to make it off the beach- imagine what the breeding turtle numbers will look like in 30 years time. For an animal already on the endangered list it could well be catastrophic.
So what can we do?
Donate to your choice of the many turtle programs that help with conservation efforts of turtles.
Join your local community group that are watching the beaches for turtle activity
Get involved with you local community group that focuses on regenerating beaches or organises beach clean ups or waterway monitoring and preservation
Take a garbage bag with you on your morning walk and pick up rubbish - you don't need to be beach side to do this.... remember finding Nemo - all drains lead to the ocean
Report turtle stranding to Coast care. The entry ways to your local beach will all have phone numbers you can call for help. NEVER put a stranded turtle back in the water. Turtles that wash up on the beach require help from trained professionals that are dedicated to their survival.
If you are our fishing and you see a struggling turtle also report it to Coast care. Our plastic bags look the same as jelly fish and many turtles eat them by mistake and get sick as a result
reduce your plastic usage. Our entire ocean and eco system benefits every single time you choose to NOT use plastic
Our Directors Ben and Megan both give up sleep in during turtle season and walk the beach rain, hail or shine looking for signs of turtle nesting, hatching or stranding. Our logo is so much more than just a pretty turtle... it is a love and motivation to leave some sort of legacy for future generations. (Ben walking the beach in the November rains above)
You can donate to Coolum coast care - the same group we volunteer to walk the beaches for of an early morning in hunt of turtle activity by hitting the button below
go to Cooloola Coastcare and donate to their turtle program. Any money donated to these groups helps our local warriors protect our flippered friends.