Australia Day brings turtle nest warning

Shannon BeattieNorth West Telegraph
Turtle hatchlings scurry while trying to find the water.
Camera IconTurtle hatchlings scurry while trying to find the water. Credit: Ariel Leano / In The Rough Photography

Care for Hedland is calling for people to enjoy their Australia Day celebrations but to be mindful of nesting turtles at Cemetery Beach.

The environmental organisation has teamed up with the Town of Port Hedland to keep the protected species safe during the festivities at the Civic Centre Gardens on January 26.

Care For Hedland co-ordinator Jo Smith said the association was concerned people would walk down from the Civic Centre through the dunes and trample the sensitive area.

“There are an estimated 63 nests within the immediate Civic Centre Gardens vicinity,” she said.

“At this time of year, given it will be peak hatchling emergence, there will be thousands of hatchlings, some just centimetres below the sand surface.”

Town of Port Hedland mayor Camilo Blanco and Care for Hedland association coordinator Jo Smith on Cemetary Beach.
Camera IconTown of Port Hedland mayor Camilo Blanco and Care for Hedland association coordinator Jo Smith on Cemetary Beach. Credit: Shannon Beattie

Light pollution is also an issue because when turtle hatchlings emerge, they follow the brightest lit horizon, while vibrations and loud noises disturb nesting sea turtles.

“To combat these issues, Care For Hedland has arranged with the ToPH for all lights to be set low and facing the Civic Centre and not Cemetery Beach, to reduce light pollution, as well as installing barriers and signage to block entry to the beach via the dunes,” Ms Smith said.

The priority of Care for Hedland is to ensure the celebrations have minimal impact on the sea turtle population which is being protected for future generations.

“We are not trying to be buzzkills and dampen the excitement of Australia Day and fireworks,” Ms Smith said.

“Turtles are useful indicators of ecosystem health, as well as a major tourism drawcard, so it is in our best interests to allow this healthy population to flourish.”

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