Slow and steady wins the race – help us protect turtles and dugongs this Easter

Issued: 3 Apr 2023

A closeup photo of a large turtle with a damaged shell on a beach.Open larger image

Turtle ‘Margie’ has been transported to Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital in the hope that she can recover from boatstrike injuries.

These Easter holidays, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) is putting boaties, fishers and jetski users on notice to Go Slow for Those Below – or risk a hefty fine.

With increased activity in Queensland’s marine parks expected over the busy holiday period, QPWS Marine Park rangers will be out on patrol focusing on Go Slow areas, to make sure everyone is doing their part to avoid collisions with aquatic wildlife.

Senior Compliance Ranger Mike Carr said Go Slow areas were enforced by rangers in known turtle and dugong habitat.

“Go Slow areas are in place for a reason, to keep our protected and endangered marine animals safe,” Ranger Carr said.

“Turtles and dugongs are most at risk of being injured or killed when they come to the surface for air, and the best way to avoid striking these animals is to keep vessels off the plane in our Go Slow areas.”

Ranger Carr said recent loss of seagrass in areas from extensive flooding had increased pressure on marine wildlife, meaning efforts to keep them safe this Easter was even more important.

“Even outside of these areas, we encourage skippers to maintain a vigilant lookout for turtle and dugongs and to reduce their speed in estuaries, shallow inshore areas and reef flats, and to avoid shallow seagrass meadows if possible.”

In 2022, QPWS received 68 reports of marine animals stranding as a result of boatstrike.

Sadly, many of these animals die due to their extensive injuries.

Turtles In Trouble Rescue Inc spokesperson Angela Bell said turtle rescue volunteers experience first-hand the devastation caused by vessel strikes.

“We regularly see turtles with crush or propellor injuries impacting their carapace (shell). Others have deep cuts to their heads or flippers,” Ms Bell said.

“While some turtles do recover from boatstrike thanks to the hard work and dedication of volunteers, specialist vet staff and rangers across the wildlife rescue network, others aren’t so lucky - all too often, the wounds are too severe.

"One such turtle was ‘Mia’; an adult green sea turtle who was released into the Great Sandy Strait after months of recovering from floaters syndrome.

“Sadly, just weeks ago, we received a report of an injured turtle at the Boonooroo marina and were devastated to discover it was Mia.

“She had been struck by a vessel and gravely wounded as a result, so the decision was made to euthanise.”

Just in the past week, Marine Park rangers and volunteers have responded to two reports of boatstrike turtles on the Fraser Coast.

One turtle was found deceased at Point Vernon beach, and the other was rescued from Stewart Island.

Ms Bell said the turtle found at Stewart Island was transported to the Sunshine Coast to receive crucial care.

“Yet another female green sea turtle, having survived 1 in 1000 odds to make it to adulthood, but then falling foul of a vessel,” she said.

“Turtle ‘Margie’ had a large impact wound to the front of her carapace, and two deep cuts to her head. She was rescued and transported to Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital in the hope that she can recover.”

To prevent boatstrikes from occurring, Marine Park rangers can hand out on-the-spot fines of $575 to boaties caught doing the wrong thing in marine parks.

In the past three months, QPWS rangers across Moreton Bay and Great Sandy marine parks have handed out 8 fines and 21 formal warnings for unlawful operation of a vessel in a Go Slow area.

In the same period, rangers issued 9 fines and 38 formal warnings for fishing in a marine national park zone.

Ranger Carr said rangers would also be cracking down on unlawful crabbing and fishing in marine parks over the holiday period.

“Last year, QPWS received reports of 44 marine animals entangled in crab pot gear, which is disappointing,” he said.

“In the past three months alone, rangers have removed 62 derelict crab pots from marine parks, but they shouldn’t be there in the first place for us to clean up.

“These Easter holidays, we’re asking everyone to follow the rules and be respectful of our beautiful marine parks, or face a hefty fine if you don’t.”

Anyone who comes across injured, stranded or dead marine wildlife should report it by calling 1300 130 372.

Details of designated Go Slow areas are in the marine parks visitor guides and zoning plans on the Queensland Government website: Marine parks.