Avoid Island is an exemplar of how not-for-profit organisations, corporate partners and members of the public can come together to deliver lasting scientific and conservation outcomes and was recognised as one of Australia’s most environmentally sustainable ecosystems at the 2015 Banksia Foundation Sustainability Awards.
The Trust bought the 83 hectare island in 2006 to preserve nesting beaches for the flatback turtle (Natator depressus) – a sea turtle species endemic to the continental shelf of Australia and named for the distinctive shape of its shell, which is almost flat with upturned edges.
What the property protects:
The flatback turtle is listed as Vulnerable in Queensland (Nature Conservation Act 1992) and nationally (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999). The species’ recovery is ranked as a critical priority under the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage protection’s Back on Track species prioritisation framework.
Avoid Island’s eastern facing beaches provide nesting habitat for 25% – 30% of the female flatback turtles on the east coast of Australia, and the lack of mammalian predators such as pigs, dogs and foxes, and the absence of artificial light and human development make the location one of the most important nesting sites in Queensland. Today, Avoid Island is the only privately protected island nesting habitat for the flatback turtle in the world.
Avoid Island from the air
World-renowned sea turtle experts Dr Col Limpus and Dr Nancy FitzSimmons lead annual nesting and hatchling surveys on Avoid Island which has been established as a representative index beach for the long-term monitoring of the east Australian stock of the flatback turtle.
The collated findings of six seasons of census data conclude:
- Female flatback turtles lay more than 7,000 eggs on Avoid Island each year with hatchling success rate at 78.1 per cent.
- Turtles at Avoid Island display high site fidelity, with nearly all remigrant turtles having been tagged previously at Avoid Island.
- Existing management at Avoid Island is providing important protected habitat for the Eastern Australian nesting population of flatback turtles in an area free of large terrestrial predators such as pigs, dogs, foxes and goannas.
- Continued monitoring is necessary to estimate the recruitment rate of first time breeding females into the adult nesting population.
The quality of the research program is such that Avoid Island doubles as a real-world classroom for the next generation of marine researchers from Griffith University and the University of New South Wales.
Student researchers under the tutelage of Dr Nancy FitzSimmons (right)
A partnership between QTFN and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Reef Guardian Schools program allows Mackay primary and secondary students to learn about life on the Reef and important animals and their habitats through the lens of Avoid Island.
The Trust assembles regular "flying squads" of volunteers who give up their time and travel to the island to remove rubbish hazardous to turtles from the island's foreshore prior to the year's nesting season.
These flying squads are supported by the Queensland Government's Everyone's Environment grant program, and the clean up data is provided to the Tangaroa Blue Foundation’s Australian Marine Debris Initiative which is seeking solutions to stop the flow of rubbish into our oceans.
A Flying Squad on patrol
Hundreds of everyday people further support QTFN's work on Avoid Island by symbolically adopting a hatching of their own - you can read more about this fun and rewarding program here.