Raine Island - Introduction

Raine Island on the northern Great Barrier Reef is identified as the largest rookery in the world for the green turtle (Chelonia mydas) with upwards of 15 000 females having been recorded attempting to nest at the one time along the approximately 1.8km of beach (Limpus 2008). The island is considered an iconic site within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, and not only for this large green turtle nesting population but also for its importance as a nesting and roosting site for approximately 16 species of seabird (Batianoff and Cornelius 2004). It also has important indigenous and cultural heritage values including the oldest existing colonial stone building in Queensland, a stone tower once used as a navigation beacon (Raine Island National Park (Scientific) Management Statement 2006-2012).

Raine Island Tower

The island's incredible levels of productivity are evident the moment you step ashore. Senses are assailed by the noise, the heat and most overwhelmingly the smell. In 35 - 40 degree tropical heat sea bird guano, rotting turtle eggs and bloated adult green turtles that didn't make it back to sea after nesting give off powerful odours. The thousands upon thousands of seabirds greet you with a cacophony of calls and the unwary visitor can be splattered with steaming acidic waste from the sky. The beach in the turtle nesting season is a bulldozed mess littered with turtle bones, scattered eggs and freshly dead turtles that have tumbled onto their backs from low phosphate cliffs at the back of the beach.

Green turtles nesting on Raine Island

Tiger sharks cruise so close to shore during the turtle nesting season their backs emerge from the water and they feast on exhausted females lacking the energy to escape when they return to the sea. At night ghost crabs and Night Herons patrol the foreshore and back-beach in search of hatchlings as they emerge from nests.

This incredible display of life easily leads the casual observer to believe that this is one of the great sea turtle rookeries of the world producing masses of offspring for future generations. However through ongoing research and monitoring it is becoming apparent that this may not be the case and that in fact Raine Island may be destroying rather than creating future turtle populations.