Heartbreaking sea turtle image sparks warning: 'Distressing'

·Environment Editor
·3-min read

A heartbreaking image of a drowned turtle has been shared by authorities “frustrated” by the impact of crab traps on marine life.

The endangered green turtle was found within the K’gari (Fraser Island) Great Sandy National Park entangled in the trap’s float line.

While the death occurred in June, Queensland National Parks has shared the photo to help educate those visiting Queensland about the impact of the devices.

The endangered green turtle dead on the beach.
An endangered green turtle has been killed by a crab trap in Queensland. Source: Queensland Government

Senior ranger Dan Clifton believes a lack of knowledge about how to properly use crab traps is leading to around 40 preventable sea turtle deaths in South East Queensland each year.

“We just want to get the message out. No one is trying to do the wrong thing. We just want to educate people,” he said.

Ranger distressed by ongoing sea turtle deaths

Speaking with Yahoo News Australia on Friday, Mr Clifton said he has personally seen five sea turtles killed by the traps in the past year.

“It does get frustrating. I mean one of these (deaths) is too many,” he said.

“We understand that animals do have interactions with fishing gear, but the important thing is we try to minimise it.

“There are some important things that we can do to make a significant difference to the number of turtles that are being captured and killed in this way.”

Crab traps kill around 40 sea turtles a year in South East Queensland. Source: Getty (File)
Crab traps kill around 40 sea turtles a year in South East Queensland. Source: Getty (File)

Despite having attended to many reports of turtle deaths from crab pots, Mr Clifton said the work doesn’t get any easier.

“It can be quite distressing, when when you do see it," he said.

“You certainly feel for the animal yet. It certainly isn’t a pleasant way to die for the animal.”

How do crab pots kill turtles?

Mr Clifton said the turtle in the image shared by National Parks died after having its fin entangled by the crab pot line.

“It’s been tired out and it’s unable to swim, and that’s what’s killed this animal,” he said.

“The animal is probably strong enough to drag itself to the surface for a little while to breathe. But eventually it's going to fatigue.

“This one has obviously swam into the shallows, but it can't get rid of (the trap) and then it's got really tired. Then the tide comes in and out and eventually it can't breathe.”

Other examples of turtle deaths he’s seen have included head entanglements. Other crab pots with large openings allow smaller turtles to swim inside and drown.

Easy tips to minimise your impact on sea turtles

These four tips from Queensland National Parks could help you save a turtle’s life

  • Only use traps that weigh 3kg or more, so it drops to the sea floor.

  • Use weighted or non-buoyant line so it drops under the surface

  • Add vertical line to traps with wide openings

  • Check your traps regularly and don’t forget about them

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