Rare turtle nest faces a battle against the elements
UP AGAINST a rising tide National Parks and Wildlife Service officers have rushed to protect the turtle nest on Boambee Beach.
Large swells kicked up by strong winds produced by a low pressure system over the Tasman Sea left water lapping at the edges of a sand barricade around the rare green sea turtle nest.
NPWS officers spent the morning reinforcing the nest with sandbags, trenches and fencing.
A tractor was used to shift sand as this morning's tide rose.
NPWS office Mick Phillips found the nest last week.
All of this effort is a worthy cause, as Southern Cross University Associate Professor Danny Bucher outlined the importance of the southern population of green turtles.
Dr Bucher said sand temperature determined the sex of the vulnerable-listed green turtle.
"If the temperature is below 27 (degrees) they will all be males," Dr Bucher said.
"If it's above 31, they will all be females."
With the cooler temperatures of the sand in Coffs Harbour, the turtles on Boambee Beach will be males.
Protecting the nest could be a key factor in helping conserve the species as recent research found there was a dramatic shortage in the number of males in northern breeding populations.
Queensland Department of Environment and Science Chief Scientist Dr Col Limpus said data unveiled in the Environmental warming and feminization of one of the largest sea turtle populations in the world raised concerns.
"The study shows a shortage of immature turtles and almost no male turtles coming from the northern Great Barrier Reef breeding population," Dr Limpus said.
"That is a worry, because Queensland Turtle Conservation Program research showed the ratio of male turtles was much higher in the early 1990s."
Dr Bucher said little was known about the travel patterns of green turtles, but some females were known to return to the beach they hatched from to lay their eggs.
He said the future of the the species could rely on how much the males moved around.
Dr Bucher said the Boambee Beach nest faced a number of risks including getting too wet.
"If it does get wet for too long the temperature can drop to a fatal level," he said.
He said the eggs were also semi-permeable, so if the nest flooded the embryos could drown.
Disturbance to the nest site and the predation of eggs by animals are other risks.
NPWS said beach-goers had been respectful of the site and helped build up the sand barricade out of hours.