Saving sea turtles at Solitary Islands Marine Park

by NSW DPI 
Turtle and plastic - an inadvertant lure
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Solitary Islands Marine Park’s visitors are being asked to assist in the preservation of sea turtles by keeping plastic bags out of the water.

'Sea turtles worldwide are experiencing a decline in population and to raise awareness of their plight 23 May has been declared World Turtle Day,' said Chantelle Burns, education officer from the Solitary Islands Marine Park.
'Plastics are one of the biggest problems to the health of turtles as they can often look like jelly fish.'

Sea turtles, listed as threatened and protected, are managed under the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Act (1974).
Four of the world’s seven species of marine turtle occur throughout the Solitary Islands Marine Park: loggerhead, green, hawksbill and on occasions the leatherback turtles.

'Green sea turtles are most commonly seen within the Solitary Islands Marine Park popping up for a breath around the base of headlands and Muttonbird Island,' Ms Burns said. 'Divers can also get a glimpse of turtles hiding under rock ledges at popular dive sites, particularly around the islands. They have been known to lay their eggs on beaches within the Solitary Islands Marine Park, but prefer more northerly beaches in Queensland.

'Female turtles often return to the same beach to lay their eggs so locals are encouraged to report any sightings' said Ms Burns.

Ms Burns said ingesting plastics can lead to a problem called ‘floating syndrome’ which is where a blockage in the turtles digestive system can lead to gas build up inside the turtle, preventing it from diving. If a turtle is unable to dive its chances of being hit by boats increases and its ability to find food decreases. Sick turtles can then end up stranded on beaches and are often put into care at the Pet Porpoise Pool for rehabilitation.

When the turtles have recovered, Solitary Islands Marine Park staff release them back into the marine environment. A recent release saw a green turtle returned to waters near Split Solitary Island. 'There is nothing more rewarding than releasing a turtle back into the water after it has recovered, but we would prefer that they never got sick in the first place,' Ms Burns said.

What you can do to help sea turtles:

• Pick up litter, particularly plastics, from beaches and around waterways.
• Watch out for turtles on the sea surface when boating.
• Report injured and stranded turtles to the National Parks and Wildlife office on 6652 0900.

Department of Primary Industries website