Calls for harbour 'go slow' to protect turtles
THE chair of Gladstone Local Marine Advisory Committee wants "go slow" areas to be created in parts of Gladstone Harbour to protect turtles and other marine life.
Karl French has been involved with the state government's turtle conservation program since 1991 and is passionate about protecting them.
"Turtles obviously need to come to the surface to breathe, and like us they like to sunbathe," he said.
"Yesterday (at Rodds Harbour) we saw turtles that were floating up near the surface, if someone is coming through at high speed ..."
Mr French said some of the areas where turtles are known to favour were at Rodds Harbour, the mouth of the Boyne River, areas of The Narrows and Pelican Banks, off Curtis Island.
"A turtle's shell is basically made up of flattened ribs which are all interconnected," he said.
"When a boat hits them it often cracks and it can lead to holes which lead to sand and other things getting into their body cavity.
"Imagine your chest cavity caving in, if the strike doesn't kill them outright, they run the risk of secondary infection.
Mr French said while boat strikes may kill them, turtles were nonetheless "incredible animals" and very resilient.
"They can lose a flipper and they can still manage perfectly alright, I've even (seen) nesting turtles that have both back flippers paralysed," he said.
He said even if "go slow" areas could not be installed it was still important to get the message out to local boaties.
"If you're going over somewhere that's shallow, cut your speed back," he said.
"If (the turtles) are low in the water, if you are distracted for a second and you are going fast, the turtle does not have time to get out of the way."
Mr French said he'd also like to see people take more care when driving on beaches during turtle nesting season, which has just officially ended.
He asked people to please not drive above the high water mark.
"You've only got to go down and see the tracks that carve up the beach, vehicles driving up and over the dunes - even out on the seagrass flats at Lilley's Beach," he said.
"We have isolated turtle nesting there, and it's an important beach for migratory sea birds.
"A couple of years ago we had a turtle nest that was marked off with flagging tape, someone decided of all the tracks they would drive over (the track with) the turtle nest."
Mr French said the wheel tracks can cause the hatchlings to get diverted from their course.
Instead of heading for the water, the hatchlings can follow the vehicle tracks, making them more vulnerable to crabs and seagulls.
He said about five in one thousand turtles make it to adulthood, meaning our actions could make a difference.