Fresh fears for the long-term sustainability of WA's flatback turtle population have been ignited after revelations that turtles are nesting, then foraging, at the sites of what will be two of the biggest natural gas projects in Australia.
About 50 flatbacks, followed with satellite equipment from the beaches of Barrow Island's Gorgon gas project, have consistently travelled north along the WA coast, with some descending on the James Price Point area where it is suspected they feed.
Other turtles, all of which are tracked with GPS-style equipment by Chevron-backed Pendoley Environmental, are travelling through the James Price Point area.
In February, Woodside announced James Price Point as the preferred site for its Browse gas field partners to establish an LNG precinct.
It has faced stiff opposition from activists who say it is a hub for local marine life.
Turtle experts said yesterday that of the more than 3500 turtles tagged on Barrow Island over the past five years, a significant proportion would most likely take the path to James Price Point. They said any detrimental influence on the populations might not be known until the LNG projects were completed.
In a marine turtle management plan prepared by Chevron, it said the most frequented flatback turtle foraging ground revealed by the satellite tracking was off Quondong Point, north of Broome, kilometres away from James Price Point.
Turtle Island Restoration Network director Teri Shore said the turtle populations were losing nesting beaches on Barrow Island and would now face a major disruption at their feeding grounds near James Price Point.
She said the flatback turtle had been forgotten in the "fossil frenzy" in the North-West.
Wilderness Society marine co- ordinator Jill St John said in light of the latest information on the potential impact of the LNG projects on the turtles the Government had to reconsider its plans for James Price Point.A spokesman for Chevron said the company was investing more than $60 million to help protect the turtles.
The new magazine for a new generation of West Australians.Click here to download »
All the latest market figures from Australia and the world.Click here »
'The West Australian' is a trademark of West Australian Newspapers Limited 2013.
All rights reserved.
Select your state to see news for your area.