A new plan is set to help protect our region’s “ancient mariners’’. The Sunshine Coast Marine Turtle Conservation Plan has been adopted at Council’s latest meeting. It includes extensive input from the region’s turtle champions and outlines Council’s plan for the recovery of marine turtle populations on the Sunshine Coast.
To do this, it will take steps to reduce threats to marine turtles, such as light pollution, and strengthen support of the dedicated community volunteer programs – TurtleCare Sunshine Coast and Coolum and North Shore Coast Care.
Bright artificial light can confuse hatchlings, leading them away from the sea and leaving them exhausted and even more vulnerable to predators.It can also be a major issue for nesting mothers, stopping them coming ashore.
Addressing lighting impact on marine turtles was among the highest priority actions identified by the community during consultation for the plan. The conservation plan will now work towards ensuring existing public lighting in sensitive coastal areas is more turtle friendly. Solutions include retrofitting light poles with smarter, amber lights or installing light shields that restrict glare.
A toolkit will be prepared for the development sector, local businesses and residents to give practical advice on suitable products and designs to reduce light pollution.
Another positive change will be the development of a locally refined marine turtle dune vegetation plan, so the right type of grasses, shrubs and trees are planted in the dunes to create a darker, more inviting and accessible space for turtles to nest.
The Sunshine Coast citizen science program is very popular and plans will also focus on gradually growing the number of turtle-focused citizen scientists through diversifying opportunities and integrating Indigenous cultural knowledge.
Another key action of the plan is to build capacity and employment opportunities for the local traditional owners to be involved in marine turtle conservation management.
Council’s Environment and Liveability Portfolio Councillor, Peter Cox, thanked the community for providing feedback to help protect marine turtles.
“This plan sets us on the right track to help save one of the Sunshine Coast’s most beloved marine animals,” Cr Cox said.
Actions were added to the plan to address potential threats to turtle populations through willful vegetation damage and disturbance from dogs off-leash.
Cr Cox said, “It won’t be until 2035 that we will start to see the benefits of our long-term investment in turtle conservation and the amazing annual work of the three turtle citizen science groups within the Sunshine Coast rookery.”
A strong partnership across the region led to the plan’s development with Sunshine Coast Council, Kabi Kabi First Nation Peoples, Queensland Government, an independent Technical Advisory Panel and community leaders of TurtleCare, Coolum and North Shore Coast Care and Bribie Island Turtle Trackers volunteers all collaborating on the plan.
The implementation plan will be reviewed and updated annually. The adopted Sunshine Coast Marine Turtle Conservation plan is available at sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au by searching “turtlecare”.
A full summary of the feedback received during community engagement and Council’s response is available at haveyoursay.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au.