‘International tourists are horrified at what’s happening’

The battle to save loggerhead turtle nesting grounds on Bribie Island heated up this week with the Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch dismissing conservationist's calls for a ban on 4WDs during turtle nesting season.

Ms Enoch, responding to the Bribie Island Environmental Protection Association (BIEPA), repeated her earlier statement there "are currently no plans to ban" 4WDs in the Bribie Island Recreation Area or "place a cap on the number of permits used".

A Department of Environment and Science (DES) spokesman said "while Moreton Bay marine park is an important feeding ground, it is not a major breeding or nesting area in comparison to Mon Repos".

"Only a handful of loggerhead turtles nest on the local sand islands of Bribie, Moreton and North and South Stradbroke."

The spokesman confirmed a handful was "generally less than 20 on Bribie Island".

 

Conservationists fear for the safety of Bribie Island loggerhead turtle hatchlings. Photo. Diane Oxenford.
Conservationists fear for the safety of Bribie Island loggerhead turtle hatchlings. Photo. Diane Oxenford.

But BIEPA president Diane Oxenford condemned the response from the Minister and the Department saying Bribie Island was as critical as Mon Repos.

"It is not a handful," she said.

"And with all the loggerheads dying, every little hatching, every egg matters, it doesn't matter if it's a handful, although it's not, we have to protect them all."

"International tourists are horrified at what is happening here ..."

"But what I think is really disconcerting is ... treating this (Bribie Island) population of the endangered South Pacific Loggerhead Turtles as being expendable - for no good or justifiable reason."

"Not to mention treating Bribie Islanders and their Sanctuary for Fauna and Flora as expendable."

She said at least two nests were destroyed by 4WDs during the 2018/19 nesting season.

Ms Oxenford said local data showed Bribie Island was a valuable nesting ground and all protections should be enforced to protect the species in line with international agreements.

She said turtles at Mon Repos were afforded full protections ensuring all nests were protected unlike Bribie Island.

Ms Oxenford said data also showed numerous attempts by turtles who "couldn't climb eroded dunes" and an "unprecedented number of turnarounds".

Ms Oxenford blamed 4WDs for the dune erosion and destruction of the vulnerable sand dunes.

"I just feel so sorry for the turtles. They are trying so hard to survive. But they can't survive the erosion and destruction of the beach. They just can't. And we are seeing that. If they turn around too many times they will just dump the eggs in the ocean."

 

Bribie Island nest data is collected for the endangered loggerhead turtles. Photo. Diane Oxenford.
Bribie Island nest data is collected for the endangered loggerhead turtles. Photo. Diane Oxenford.

Ms Enoch said she had met with several local organisations including BIEPA last year and that "unauthorised or inappropriate four-wheel drive vehicle activity within the BIRA is heavily policed by QPWS rangers and local police".

"Any changes to the future management of the Bribie Island Recreation Area would be guided by a management planning process following extensive community and stakeholder consultation."

But Ms Oxenford said the beach was unpatrolled after sunset and until 8am every morning, when turtles were nesting.

She said volunteers regularly observed 4WDs on the beach overnight and campers in the dunes.

"And we have been waiting for over two years for the consultation regarding the management planning process.

The DES spokesman confirmed data record by the volunteer group, "known as the Bribie Island Turtle Trackers, are incorporated into the departmental Queensland Turtle Conservation Database".

"This is a long running citizen science project authorised and managed by DES Aquatic Threatened Species Program."

The spokesman said resident and visitors were reminded to be "on the lookout for nesting turtles through to the end of February, and anyone who comes across a turtle is asked to avoid disrupting it".

The spokesman said there were "limits on where people can drive on Bribie Island Recreation Area" including speed limit restrictions.

"Driving on vegetated dunes and disturbing shore birds and other beach species such as turtles are offences, as well as unauthorised or inappropriate four-wheel drive vehicle activity within RAM areas."

"These activities are heavily policed by QPWS rangers as well as local police."



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