ENDANGERED: Acting general manager of Australian Seabird Rescue Keith Williams with a baby loggerhead turtle.
ENDANGERED: Acting general manager of Australian Seabird Rescue Keith Williams with a baby loggerhead turtle. Cathy Adams

Turtles on council’s agenda

LENNOX Head's Seven Mile Beach is a popular spot for endangered loggerhead turtles to lay their eggs.

Nests have also been monitored at other local beaches, including Shelly Beach at Ballina.

But with only 15 to 20 breeding females laying eggs at North Coast beaches, it is becoming increasingly important to protect their nesting spots.

That's why Ballina Shire councillor Keith Williams - who also works with Australian Seabird Rescue - is pleased with the recommendation of a report that will be debated at this week's council meeting.

The report explains that when street lights shine on to the sand, turtles often refuse to lay their eggs on that beach.

Sea turtles look for dark, sandy areas for their nests.

If they are discouraged by artificial light, the turtles can even drop their eggs in the ocean, which dramatically reduces the survival rate of the hatchlings.

The artificial light can also disorientate hatchlings on the beach causing them to go inland rather than toward the ocean.

It is believed they are attracted to the brightest light, which is normally the moonlight on the water.

Cr Williams said there were probably once a lot of turtles which nested on North Coast beaches before coastal development.

"Now we've got about 15 or 20 breeding on the entire Northern Rivers," he said.

"If the female is nesting here, it probably means that she was born here - turtles usually return to their birthplace to lay their eggs.

"So it is definitely worth trying to protect them."

At Thursday's meeting councillors will vote on whether the design of any new or replacement lights on the coastal fringe should take into consideration the effect of artificial lighting on nesting sea turtles.

Cr Williams said it would be an important step in encouraging the turtles to return to the area.

"I am pleased with the staff report because it highlights that this is a real issue for our environment," he said.

"Turtles have been nesting right along Seven Mile Beach consistently for the past four years; we at Australian Seabird Rescue have been monitoring them.

"The lights do have an impact.

"The fact that we have turtles nesting here is something we should celebrate and be proud of, and we should do everything we can to keep them here."

TURTLE TALES

Loggerhead turtles live more than 50 years.

It can take 15 years before they become sexually mature.

Females lay clutches of about 120 eggs. Some lay up to six clutches.

Incubation temperatures determine a hatchling's sex. Warm beaches produce mostly female hatchlings.



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