"Another victim of a careless crab pot," one frustrated local posted on Facebook on Friday after seeing the green sea turtle on Woorim beach on Bribie Island. Others said it's a "disgusting" problem that should have them "banned".
The photo shows the turtle, likely deceased, lying flat on the sand alongside a ripped crab net — and it's a common sight in the Moreton Bay region of southeast Queensland.
Grahame Lloyd, a Remote Marine Debris Campaigner for Sea Shepard regularly cleans up the beaches in the area, with a focus on Moreton Island, opposite Bribie. He said they are "constantly" finding turtles deceased after being strangled by or caught in crab nets.
"There were 42 reported last year to Queensland Parks and Wildlife in the Morton Bay Marine park. So there would have to be double, triple that because that's only [the ones that were] reported," Mr Lloyd told Yahoo News Australia. "It's really bad and the problem's getting worse as time goes on".
How crab pots harm turtles and other marine life
During a three-day clean up of the Pumicestone Passage — a narrow pristine waterway between Bribie Island and the mainland in Queensland — in May, marine park rangers and fisheries officers located 195 abandoned crab pots. Large amounts of fish, turtles, crabs, dugongs, dolphins and sharks were also trapped inside.
Mr Lloyd said the turtle in the image shared on social media on Friday is likely dead. "I don't think they come back from [crab pots]," he said.
"They get stuck. The turtle gets into the crab pot and can't get out," he explained. "Then we find them strangled to death in the floats".
"The rope with the buoy on it [gets] wrapped around their neck and I guess that stops them from swimming."
Why are crab pots an increasing problem?
Ccrab pots are legal to use in Australia for fishing purposes, and are on the rise. This is partly due to them becoming more readily available and cheaper, Mr Lloyd said.
"Once upon a time, it was a lot harder to get crab pots and they weren't made out of nearly all single-use material. They're made out of a long-term material that people would use and they would [come back to] check because it was an investment," he explained.
Now, they're almost disposable meaning people are buying more and discarding them. But most of the time this results in pots being left in the water. "I think [we] need to start fining people that are using them outside of the regulations," Grahame added.
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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