Green sea turtles released from Queensland rehabilitation centre mark release of 150th animal

Eight years, hundreds of kilos of squid and thousands of volunteer hours later, a rehabilitation centre is celebrating the release of its 150th green sea turtle.

The Quoin Island Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, off Gladstone, takes in sick and injured turtles along the Queensland coast from Mackay to Bundaberg.

The animals are fed lots of squid, love and care until they are healthy and can be returned to the ocean.

Owner Bob McCosker has spent thousands of dollars on the animals since opening the centre more than eight years ago — and says it has all been worth it.

“We’ve got probably 100 volunteers in the region who are involved and who are dedicated, so it’s a big organisation.

“It’s not just us at the other end, on the rehab side, there’s a lot in between to make it happen.”

The release marks Quoin Island Turtle Rehabilitation Centre’s 150th green sea turtle release.(ABC Capricornia: Erin Semmler)

A unique triple turtle release at Zilzie beach, on the Capricorn Coast, marked the milestone.

“Nature turns on as soon as they can smell that salt water,” Mr McCosker said.

“Their DNA takes over. They’re not looking for the pool anymore. They know what they’re doing out there.”

‘A miracle recovery’

Centre manager Kim van Oudheusden said the turtles washed up in winter, very underweight.

“They had some parasites and they were very unhealthy, so we just cleaned them up, fattened them up, and released them back to the ocean,” she said.

“It was so exciting, especially because it was three, which is quite special. That doesn’t happen very often.”

Kim van Oudheusden, holding green sea turtle, smiling, wearing sunglasses, beach, ocean and man in the background.
Manager Kim van Oudheusden is thrilled to be releasing another healthy green sea turtle.(ABC Capricornia: Erin Semmler)

Ms van Oudheusden said each turtle’s journey to recovery was different.

“One stayed with us for four months, one three months and one two months,” she said.

“The third one, he made a really speedy recovery. He was in the main pool in a week’s time eating and fattening up, and the other ones just needed a little bit more care.

“With Kahana, the second one, we thought she wouldn’t make it so we didn’t give her much of a chance.

“But she was the first one in the water so it was a miracle recovery.”

Andrew the human, releases Andrew the turtle

Andrew Kaney found one of the turtles washed up on Zilzie beach covered in barnacles, algae and leeches.

“It was actually during COVID-19 and we were working from home, and I decided to take my dog for a walk in the middle of the day to get out and get some fresh air,” he said.

“I actually walked past the turtle because it was in such a poor state. It actually looked like a rock. I didn’t take any notice of it.

“My dog hung around it and wouldn’t come, and then she’s looking at me, and I said, ‘What have you found?’

“I went back and it was the turtle. It was in a pretty poor state.”

Sea turtle covered in barnacles and green moss lying on blue towel.
Andrew the green sea turtle was found washed up on Zilzie beach lethargic and covered in barnacles.(Supplied)

He called the rehab centre’s local volunteer, Paul Mitchell, who picked up the sick turtle and drove it to Gladstone.

Mr Kaney was moved to see the turtle, named after him, return to the ocean healthy.

“It was a pretty good feeling,” he said.

A message to fishers

The centre constantly sees turtle injuries and deaths as a result of recreational fishing, with hooks, crab pots, and fishing line causing some of the worst trauma.

“Our constant cry is just be really careful with your tackle and your gear,” Mr McCosker said.

“If you know you’re going to get snagged, don’t just break your line off because that’s going to be there for the next thousand years.”

Three turtles make their way along the sand towards the ocean, little boy and woman watch on.
Andrew, Mossy and Kahana recovered well after being found sick and underweight in the Yeppoon area.(ABC Capricornia: Erin Semmler)

He hoped boaties and fishers would make a move to biodegradable fishing line.

“That’s going to be the ultimate answer because our shorelines and our oceans at the moment, our reefs, are getting just massacred with fishing tackle,” he said.

“It’s sort of overlooked because you can’t see the damage you’re leaving behind.

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Turtles could solve the Murray-Darling’s carp problem, research shows

Freshwater turtles could be the solution to keeping the Murray-Darling clean and to helping eradicate carp from the river system, a study has found.

Western Sydney University research has revealed that turtle scavenging can remove fish carcasses from the water five times faster than natural decomposition.

It also has found that if turtles are reintroduced, they will dramatically improve the river’s water quality by eating the fish carcasses before they begin to rot.

Western Sydney University ecologist Ricky Spencer said turtles played a particularly important role in cleaning up waterways after fish-kill events.

Reintroducing freshwater turtles to the Murray-Darling Basin could be a cost-saving measure in the National Carp Control Plan.(Supplied: Western Sydney University)

Turtles could slash carp clean-up costs

The study was initially conducted to help conserve biodiversity in the river system.

But it has found that replenishing the number of turtles could be a significant cost-saving measure in the National Carp Control Plan — colloquially known as “carpegeddon” — which would see carp herpes used as a biological control agent.

“We are now seeing that scavenging is performing a role that potentially would cost a lot of money to do if we wanted to clear the carp mechanically or go out with boats and nets.”

Mr Spencer said adding more turtles to the river system would help to regulate the river’s nutrients instead of taking them out completely.

Comparison of two pools, one with clear water where turtles were introduced and a murky one without turtles.
The study found water where turtles were introduced (B) returned to normal faster than water without turtles (A).(Supplied: Western Sydney University)

“What would normally happen is that bacteria would break the carp down and release the nutrients into the water column, which can trigger things like blue-green algae and that’s potentially what causes our rivers to turn green,” Mr Spencer said.

Shrinking turtle numbers

Western Sydney University PhD student Claudia Santori, who pioneered the study, said freshwater turtles lived in the Murray-Darling in abundance, but numbers were dwindling.

“In the Murray-Darling Basin there are three species of freshwater turtles — the long-neck turtle, the broadshell turtle and the short-neck turtle — and all of them eat carrion or dead animals to an extent,” Ms Santori said.

Turtle populations in the basin have been declining because of predators such as foxes, cats and goannas preying on nests, and because of roadkill, marine disease and poor water quality due to water connectivity issues.

A woman in a broad hat stands in water checking a big net tube across  a river.
Researcher Claudia Santori inspects a net tube to see how the introduction of turtles affects carp carcass decomposition and water quality.(Supplied: Western Sydney University)

The carp, which make up almost 90 per cent of the river’s biomass, have had a devastating effect on the river’s ecosystem and water quality.

“After the fish kills there were obviously some major impacts on water quality such as decreases in dissolved oxygen, ammonia and other nutrients,” Ms Santori said.

‘Anything’s worth a try’

Menindee Tourism Association president Rob Gregory said if more turtles were introduced to the river system, there would need to be a plan to protect them.

“When the water’s down low and if you’re wandering around in that black soil country, you can find a lot of empty shells so there’s certainly a lot of predators that like them,” Mr Gregory said.

Mr Spencer said if more turtles were introduced to the river, community involvement would be imperative to the project’s success.

“Our ‘1 Million Turtles Program’ is where communities can be actively involved in protecting turtle nests and creating turtle islands,” he said.

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351 sea turtles found dead on same coastline as mass sea lion beaching | Climate News

351 loggerhead sea turtles have been found dead on the same stretch of coastline where 137 sea lions were found deceased earlier this month.

The loggerhead sea turtles and sea lions were found on the Baja California coast, in northwestern Mexico.

The Mexican Centre for Environmental Law and the Centre for Biological Diversity have both said the death of the sea turtles highlights the need for net and line fishing to be banned in this area of the Pacific coast.

Searches following reports of beached sea lions on 4 September found the animals’ carcasses scattered along an 80-mile stretch of coast in Comondu, Baja California.

Tissue samples from the animals have been collected to establish a cause of death after authorities said the sea lions showed no sign of injuries from fishing nets or lines.

In Mexico, California sea lions are a protected species but aren’t considered to be at danger of extinction.

However, loggerhead sea turtles are considered endangered in the country.

Activists have argued that the use of nets are the main reason behind the death of the sea turtles.

The groups have said the area where they were found is considered a protected zone for sea turtles as current regulations only allow for 90 deaths a year while a temporary ban on commercial long-line and gill net fishing is implemented.

However, Mario Sanchez, who works for the Centre for Environmental Law, said: “We are concerned that the deaths of loggerhead turtles is getting worse in the Gulf of Ulloa and that environmental authorities have still not enforced the applicable regulations.”

In 2019, 331 loggerhead turtles were found dead in the area, and in 2018 the figure stood at 459.

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Florida Zoo Releases Four Rehabilitated Sea Turtles Off Cocoa Beach

Florida Zoo Releases Four Rehabilitated Sea Turtles Off Cocoa Beach

Four rehabilitated green sea turtles were released back into their natural habitat on Wednesday, July 22, after months of care at the Brevard Zoo’s Sea Turtle Healing Center in Melbourne, Florida. King Kamehameha, Turtilla, Cookie, and Samantha, four turtles rescued by the zoo, were sent on their way by caretakers into the waters off Florida’s Space Coast. In a press release, the zoo said that rehabilitated turtles are typically released individually or in pairs, but that because the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) deemed the group of four healthy, they were released together. King Kamehameha and Turtilla were found severely debilitated and nursed back to health, the zoo said. Cookie and Samantha were rescued from a fishing line. Credit: Brevard Zoo via Storyful

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