Best practices for successful turtle watching

Best practices for successful turtle watching

Marine turtles are protected animals. Only authorised persons are permitted to handle marine turtles, their nest sites and hatchlings. It is an offence for unauthorised persons to interfere with these animals.

Mackay Turtle Watch Association members have received proper training and are authorised under a Scientific Purposes Permit issued by the Queensland Environmental Protection Agency.



  • Stand back from the nest. If you approach too closely you may crush hatchlings still underneath the sand
  • Turn off all lights as they could disorient the hatchlings and lead them away from the sea
  • Let the hatchlings make their own way down the beach to the sea. Do not pick them up and carry them to the water. It is important that hatchlings be allowed to make their own way down the beach as this process is believed to imprint the hatchlings with cues necessary to be able to find their way back to the same area when they reach breeding maturity
  • If you happen across hatchlings that have been disoriented by an artificial light and have strayed onto parking areas or roadways it is OK to put them in a bucket and transport them immediately to the beach. They should then be released at the top of the beach away from any artificial light influence and let them make their own way to the sea
  • Report any hatching activity to the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.



  • Keep the use of lights to a minimum while on the beach. Lights and turtles don’t go well together. It is amazing how many people think a torch is necessary to find your way on the beach at night. Turn off that light and as your night vision settles down you will be surprised at how much you can see.
  • Do not light fires on the beach.
  • Walk the beach at about the high tide mark to look for turtles.
  • Do not approach closely or shine lights on turtles on the beach. Be patient while the turtle is preparing her nest.
  • Avoid loud noise and sudden movement.
  • Once the turtle is actually laying eggs, lights do not normally disturb her, but please do not shine lights directly at her head.
  • Flashlight photos should not be taken until the turtle has finished laying.
  • Keep domestic animals away from the beach.
  • Check the turtle for any tags that may be present and note down the number.
  • Report the location, date and time of any turtle nesting to Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.
  • Learn about the habits and needs of marine turtles.

It is an offence for unauthorised persons to interfere with marine turtles.

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