It seems Sydney-siders don’t have to travel to the tropics to see Sea Turtles. Divers and snorkelers have seen more sea turtles this year than ever before, with a group of keen citizen scientists now tracking sightings. This autumn, while many of us were in lockdown (or stood down) Sydney divers took advantage of the extra time on their hands and incredible diving conditions and took to Sydney dive sites in droves. (NB: Banner image by Ian Donato).
Monitoring the turtle sightings is a group of keen citizen scientists – members of a Facebook group called VIZ – Sydney Diving Visibility Reports. With 35 sightings reported, the group has managed to identify 12 individuals; three hawksbill turtles and nine green turtles.
The Facebook group VIZ has proved a catalyst for divers, its members providing daily reports on conditions, with photos of marine encounters encouraging more and more people to take the plunge.
VIZ group moderator, Marco Bordieri has been so inspired by members’ contributions, he has started several tracking studies – the turtles just one of several creatures being tracked.
The location with the most turtle sightings recorded is Shelly Beach in Manly, with six individuals sighted here. Other popular turtle hangouts including Bare Island in La Perouse, and Kurnell. Most turtles sighted were healthy, with only one requiring intervention.
Divers noticed the turtle was covered in barnacles, an indicator of low mobility, and reported the sighting to Australian Seabird Rescue who are currently caring for the creature. The cause of illness? The turtle had swallowed a rubber balloon with over 2.5m string attached to it.
The turtle tracking project is ongoing, with swimmers, snorkelers and divers encouraged to report turtle sightings to the VIZ Facebook group, preferably with a clear photo so that the turtle can be identified. Other marine life being tracked by VIZ include anglerfish, Port Jackson sharks, cow nose rays, dusky whaler sharks, cuttlefish and little penguins.