A project to raise the height of a green turtle nesting area has helped save eggs and hatchlings. The project on Raine Island, north-west of Cairns, where 60,000 green turtles lay their eggs, marks a positive start for the five-year project and is hoped to expand on other sites.

The Raine Island Recovery Project involved raising the height of a 150 metre stretch of the nesting beach by about one meter to keep the beach stable and eggs safe from flooding throughout the 2015-2016 nesting season.

According to Minister for National Parks and the Great Barrier Reef Steven Miles, the conservation project also allowed turtles to nest in other areas rather than confined spaces. Early deaths of eggs have also been observed.

Moreover, fencing has also prevented more than 400 deaths of adult female turtles. The researchers expect this number to increase.

The Raine Island Recovery Project costs AU $7.95 million and will take five years to complete. The project is a collaboration between BHP Billiton, the Queensland Government, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the Wuthathi Nation and the Kemer Kemer Meriam Nation (Ugar, Mer, Erub) Traditional Owners and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

The research team employed drones to track changes during the 2015-2016 season. The drones provided the team with topographic maps without the need for disturbing the ecology or wildlife.

“Raine Island is such a special place which is of critical importance to the northern Great Barrier Reef’s endangered green turtle population, as well as the many other species that depend on it,” points out Great Barrier Reef Foundation Managing Director Anna Marsden.

“Protecting the island’s precious ecosystem is a priority and the Raine Island Recovery Project is a working example of what can be achieved when we bring together government, business, Reef managers and traditional owners for the benefit of the Reef.”

The researchers are now preparing for the next nesting season, which will begin in November.