Turtle population threatened, rehab centre has high success
Rehab centre has high success: The Quoin Island turtle rehabilitation centre has achieved a successful release rate of 73% since it's launch.
INCREASED marine traffic in Gladstone Harbour could be killing its turtle population, according to Townsville's Sea Turtle Foundation.
Figures from the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (DEHP) show the number of turtle "strandings", or injuries due to vessels, in Gladstone Harbour has dramatically dropped from 11 at this time last year, down to three so far this year. It's come as traffic through the port hits 20,000 vessels a month.
Julie Traweek, project manager at Townsville's Sea Turtle Foundation, said it was unlikely turtles had simply moved on.
"Turtles have a home range of only several kilometres, so they aren't going to shift out due to increased marine traffic," she said. "A possible reason for fewer boat strikes is we could have lost a lot of turtles in the region."
She said shrinking sea grass supplies could have also forced the population to move on to find food.
It would be a good idea to report it; morally I think people should want to report that.
DEHP said injured marine life can be reported to RSPCA Qld on 1300 ANIMAL. The report is then passed back to the department, but doesn't guarantee it will respond with a rescue team.
And marine traffic was not required to report if it hit a turtle or other animal.
Ms Traweek said she was surprised that marine traffic wasn't required to make a report if it struck a turtle.
"I think it would be a good idea to be mandatory, as every species of turtle is endangered," she said.
"It would be a good idea to report it; morally I think people should want to report that."
The Gladstone Ports Corporation said dredging vessels have fauna spotters to prevent animal strikes.
Gladstone between January 1 - March 31:
2013 - 3, 2012 - 11, 2011 - 16
Turtle strandings for Queensland
2012 - 1433 + 10 unconfirmed, 2011 - 1781 + 34 unconfirmed
SINCE its launch in February last year, The Quoin Island turtle rehabilitation centre has achieved a successful release rate of 73%, compared to the Australian average of about 30%.
A total of 39 sick or injured turtles have been admitted to the centre and so far 22 have been released, five have died in care and five have been euthanised.
Amanda McCosker from the centre said there was no real trend for how long turtles spent in rehabilitation.
"Some seem fine, but are monitored to be sure, then released within days," she said.
"Some come in near death and cannot be saved, some come in near death, and are released good as new.
"The largest portion of turtles required approximately two months of care and almost half required upwards of four months."
But help may be at hand for turtles in the harbour, as the Gladstone Ports Corporation considers the possibility of creating "go slow" zones.
A Ports Corporation spokesman yesterday advised that part of its Biodiversity Offset Strategy would look at the feasibility and possible benefits of enforcing such zones in the harbour.