Thousands of turtle eggs lost due to extreme weather

TURTLES' TOUGH TIMES: Huge seas and tides washed away many of the loggerhead turtle nests.
TURTLES' TOUGH TIMES: Huge seas and tides washed away many of the loggerhead turtle nests. Rob Black

JUST as the endangered sea turtle population is increasing after decades of carnage caused by trawler nets, boat strikes and plastic floating in our coastal waters, Mother Nature has struck a huge blow to their recovery.

Ex-tropical cyclone Oswald whipped up huge seas and in conjunction with the big tides washed away tens of thousands of endangered turtle eggs.

Turtle nesting season runs from around November to April and many of the eggs laid early in the season were about to hatch just as the worst of the weather hit.

Mon Repos at Bargara, east of Bundaberg is one of Queensland's biggest turtle rookeries and an estimated 46,000 eggs, and potentially hatchlings, were lost during the extreme weather.

And hundreds and possibly thousands of eggs too may have been lost along The Discovery and Capricorn coasts in similar conditions.

Turtle expert Col Limpus, chief scientist with the Department of Environment and Heritage said the bad weather was bad timing for the hatchlings.

"Gale-force winds coming in on very high tides and so it's eroded the nesting habitat for the turtles,'' he said.

"We had the maximum number of clutches for the year because not that many had hatched and the end result we lost about 60% of all of the clutches that were in the beach."

Mainly loggerhead turtles nest on the coastal beaches of the Gladstone Region, with lesser numbers of flatback, leatherback and green turtles.

And in a double-whammy for the turtles and dugongs, the flooding and resultant silting and the big seas may affect already damaged sea-grass beds including those of Gladstone Harbour and the Great Barrier Reef.

Hannah Jones, a guide on Heron Island, said the seagrass beds, which were still recovering from the floods in 2010-2011, may have been damaged even more by Oswald.

"The Queensland floods have washed a lot of sediment off the mainland onto the seagrass beds off the coast which is mainly what the green turtles would eat,'' she said.

Topics:  cq discovery coast endangered floods high tides mon repos oswald turtles

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