Updated: Dec 14, 2022
It’s summer turtle (mibir) nesting season on the eastern beach of Bribie Island (Yarun). BIEPA would like to give a giant thank-you to everyone who came to signal this important time of year, helping to raise awareness of the need to do everything we can to protect the mothers and their hatchlings.
Photo by Damian Caniglia
About the event
On Sunday 4th December, BIEPA organised an event which saw over two hundred members of the Bribie Island community come together at Woorim Beach in a joyful celebration of these maternal mariners, who return here to the dunes of their birth to lay their clutches of 100 or so ping-pong ball sized eggs.
To the rhythms of clapsticks and didgeridoo, all were grateful to be welcomed to country in a customary smoking ceremony led by the jarjums of PIEEC, youngsters from the Pumicestone Indigenous Education and Employment Council.
Photo by Stephen Finkel
Wrangling the crowd was local artist Geoff Ginn who, with the help of BIEPA marshals, corralled the two hundred into a giant human-made turtle on the sands of low tide. Captured from above by hovering drones, after mingling for a while and laughing a lot, the human turtle then attempted a return to sea, with much frivolity, and a modicum of success!
Artist Geoff said:
I was pleased to make a simple but very useful giant turtle outline that brought together a joyous and thoughtful crowd to highlight this risky 100-metre journey turtles, both large and small, take across our beaches many times each year.
Photo by Stephen Finkel
BIEPA President Richard Ogden said:
The whole community is recognising the unique value of this amazing place... We must work together to look after our remaining wildlife and natural habitat.
Photo by Stephen Finkel
About our turtles
While Yarun is officially classed as a “minor rookery” due to low numbers (compared to reliable beaches further north such as Mon Repos near Bundaberg) BIEPA definitely classes our small number of precious female turtles as anything but “minor”. In fact low numbers make their protection even more important. Given they return to lay at the beach of their birth, turtles deserve our respect and our care when nesting on their home dunes.
Photo by Diane Oxenford
It is estimated that one in ten thousand South East Queensland loggerhead turtles survives to return to breed in the area it was born, after imprinting the magnetic fields as it crossed its natal beach to its new marine home, 30 years before.
If undisturbed, a mother turtle will slowly traverse the beach to the dunes where she will spend time "body pitting" and clearing away debris. Then she will dig her nest chamber and lay an average of 127 eggs the size of ping-pong balls. She will fastidiously close and camouflage the nest then traverse the beach to her ocean home. The nest will incubate and hatch in approximately 8 weeks. Her time ashore will be approximately 2 hours.
Protections in place
The migratory species that visit Moreton Bay annually — birds, turtles, dugongs, whales, and so on — have been protected since 1991 by the United Nations convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species. Since 1993, Moreton Bay has also been protected under the United Nations RAMSAR Convention on Wetlands of International Importance. The loggerhead turtles of the South Pacific Ocean, which nest on Queensland beaches, are further protected by a United Nations Single Species Action Plan 2015, and by the Australian Government's Recovery Plan for Marine Turtles 2017-2027.
How you can help
Remember, turtles have survived for more than 150 million years, so the species has been able to adapt to many changes in their environment. They rarely need our help and should be left alone to do what they do best when visiting our shores to nest.
If you encounter a nesting turtle or hatchlings on Yarun, first immediately ‘phone the Bribie Island Turtle Trackers on 0438 111 163, who will respond as soon as possible. They will monitor and collect data for scientists. If the turtle leaves before a BITT arrives, take the GPS coordinates and mark the nest area with sticks if possible. Try not to walk on turtle tracks and the nesting site, these provide important information for the BITTs.
Give any nesting turtle a wide berth, staying behind her and out of her line of sight; nesting turtles are easily spooked. The BITTs monitor the mother and her nest to ensure they remain safe and protected, relocating the eggs if threatened.
Artificial lights can disorient turtles, effecting their ability to see the brighter horizon over the ocean which they use to find their way back out to sea after laying. Newly emerged hatchlings are similarly distracted and will head towards bright artificial light when they need to be heading to the ocean horizon. Artificial lights on the beach should be avoided as they will also discourage females coming ashore.
Remember to keep off the fragile dunes. Healthy, vegetated, and stable dunes provide protection against storm surges as well as habitat for coastal wildlife, including resident and migratory birds and endangered turtle nests.
If choosing to drive on the beach, please avoid turtle nesting beaches at night as their nesting and hatching habits are mostly nocturnal. Also avoid driving at high tide on soft sand as there could be nests, and it creates deep ruts that turtle hatchlings can not negotiate to get to the ocean, making them vulnerable to predators and exhaustion. Soft sand will build new dunes and driving on this area prevents the growth of protective, vegetated, and stable dunes. It's best to drive on hard sand at low tide during daylight hours.
Beyond threats on the beaches at nesting time, ocean-related threats to turtles include plastic pollution, vessel strike, entanglement in crab pot lines and fishing gear, and poor water quality effecting their health and diets.
BIEPA has proactive project teams tackling many of those threats — consider joining one of our teams to give turtles and other marine wildlife a better chance.
Marine Wildlife Strandings
To report sick, injured, or dead turtles, dolphins, dugongs, or whales around Bribie Island you can phone a local Bribie-based Government-accredited volunteer on 0438 111 163.
If unable to get in touch with our volunteers, please call the Queensland Government’s Marine Wildlife Strandings help line on 1300 130 372. The relevant regional QPWS officer will be contacted for an appropriate response. QPWS will not be able to attend to all reported cases.
Photos by Damian Caniglia, Stephen Finkel, and Darren Jew