Southern Great Barrier ReefAvoid Island
Avoid Island Nature Refuge
Avoid Island sits within a Habitat Protection Zone of the Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. With ongoing coastal development between Mackay and Gladstone, including in and around Gladstone Harbour, the importance of protecting the island grows each year.
We have managed the island as a nature refuge since 2006. Protecting the island in this way ensures the flatback turtle and other species have a clean, safe environment for generations to come.
Why is it so special?
Avoid Island has a variety of regional ecosystems, including mangroves, vine forest, beach scrub, open forest and grassland on coastal dues. The regional ecosystems include ‘endangered’ and ‘of concern’ species, but no introduced predators.
The island’s beaches are free from coastal development and artificial lighting, making it the perfect nesting site. The turtle hatchlings have a much greater chance of survival than nearly anywhere else along the Queensland coast.
Real-world learning on the Reef
QTFN’s work on Avoid Island supports university researchers, schools and volunteer expeditions. We are all working together to ensure survival of marine species on the Great Barrier Reef.
An ongoing collaboration with leading marine scientist, Dr Nancy Fitzsimmon from Griffith University, funded by the Gladstone Ports Corporation, allows researchers to collect accurate data about the lifecycle and movements of the flatback turtle. This important survey runs for the entire nesting season each year from October until March.
For the first time in 2016-17 researchers fitted satellite trackers to flatback turtles to build information about the movements of our important visitors.
The Flatback Bivouac runs annually at our Avoid Island nature refuge.
Delivered in conjunction with Wonder of Science (WoS), the camp gives students hands-on experiences alongside professional scientists, observing turtles laying, scientific data collection and recording techniques.
This rewarding and unforgettable experience embeds interest in scientific research, conservation land management and marine ecology in students’ lives.
Watch STEM super stars at Avoid Island on Totally Wild (4 mins and 55 seconds in) – video
Hear from some students who have been on Flatback Bivouac – video
Find out more about our work with Wonder of Science
Flatback turtles are probably the most mysterious and shy of all marine turtles and they have a challenging start to life. They emerge from their shells buried deep in the sand and must dig to the surface, then travel safely to their new home in the ocean. Flatback Turtles only nest on northern Australian beaches, although they sometimes travel as far as the Indonesian archipelago and the Papua New Guinea coast to feed.
Avoid Island flatback turtles lay more than 12,000 eggs each nesting season and around 80 to 90% of these eggs hatch. This is a very high success rate for flatback turtles and is largely due to environmental factors that QTFN protects on Avoid Island. Our ongoing conservation work and support for research and education on Avoid Island will help to ensure their survival into the future.
Queensland’s Marine Turtles
The Great Barrier Reef is home to 6 of 7 of the world’s marine turtle species. For over 100 million years marine turtles have migrated our oceans seeking places to nest and feed. As human populations grow marine turtles are becoming increasingly endangered as their habitat becomes polluted and contested.
Research being conducted at Avoid Island is contributing to vital information which will underpin the long term recovery plan for Australian marine turtles. Research and management actions required to stop the decline in turtle populations are set out in the Australian Government’s Recovery Plan for Marine Turtles in Australia.
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park