Public help sought for sea turtle project
FINDING a short, thin track in the sand on your early morning walk may require a bit of detective work, but the task could save a few turtles.
Australian Sea Bird Rescue in Ballina recently received more than $40,000 from the Federal Government and World Wildlife Fund to assist with their project of monitoring the number and habits of threatened sea turtles on the Northern Rivers.
Part of the project involves encouraging people who use the beach to report back if they see turtles, or turtle tracks.
Sea turtles are a threatened species and their numbers are being affected by feral animals, beach erosion and even 4WD use on the beach.
Australian Sea Bird Rescue general manager Rochelle Ferris said there were no records of just how many sea turtles lived in the area and tapping into local knowledge would be vital to the project's success.
“There have been studies done in tropical waters of Queensland, but nothing done in NSW, despite sea turtles being found as far south as Port Macquarie and on most local beaches,” she said.
“There already are many people who walk along our beaches, and kayakers who use our waters regularly, so connecting with them should provide us with information.”
One of the biggest challenges of the project is finding turtles' nests, which are camouflaged apart from a small track running into the dunes.
The project will also involve in-water surveys during the next 12 months, which will monitor seagrass beds, estuaries and offshore rocky outcrops for turtle numbers.
Ms Ferris said marine debris was also a big problem for sea turtles and that it was frustrating to treat so many injured turtles each year.
“We get about 40 a year. Many have been injured by plastics ingestion, are covered in barnacles and not looking healthy,” she said.
Ms Ferris said people should be concerned for the survival of sea turtles as they were not only air-breathing reptiles, but also a big part of the food chain of the ocean.
Anyone who has seen turtles in local waters or a nest is encouraged to call Australian Sea Bird Rescue on 6686 2852.