Raine Island

This special island is a vegetated 32 hectares coral cay on the outer edges of the Great Barrier Reef. It is a turtle and seabird hot spot. But it needs help. Raine Island lies 620 km north-north-east of Cairns off the tip of Cape York. The cay is composed of a central core of phosphate rock surrounded by sand and extensive fringing reefs. It lies close to the continental shelf, next to a shipping channel known as the Raine Island Entrance and Pandora Entrance. The entrance allows shipping to enter the Great Barrier Reef. The waters around the island were treacherous for early European navigators. More than thirty shipwrecks can be found off the coast of the island including HMS Pandora. Raine Island is marked by a stone beacon built in 1844. During the 1890s, the island was mined for guano. In August 2007 Raine Island, along with the neighbouring Moulter and MacLennan Cays, was proclaimed the Raine Island National Park (Scientific) and usually totally closed to public access. The declaration was made possible by the Wuthathi people and interested Torres Strait Islanders entering into a special Indigenous Land Use Agreement with the State. Raine has the world’s largest remaining population of green turtles (Chelonia mydas). Up to 18,000 females nesting on the small coral sand cay in one season. The nesting site has been active on the island for more than 1,000 years. Every year from late October to February egg laden females arrive from many parts of northern Australia, eastern Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and New Caledonia. (as much as 2700km away). They crawl up the beach at night lay approximately 100 eggs each. They are generally expected do this 4-6 times in a nesting season and then not return again for the next two to six years. It is also considered as the most significant tropical seabird breeding site in the Great Barrier Reef. 84 bird species have been observed on the island. Recent monitoring and research at the island indicates that successful incubation rates of green turtle nests is well below what might be expected. Their breeding rate on the island is a very low 20 per cent, well under the sustainable rate of 85%. Tidal inundation is one of the issues. As sea levels rise, nests are being flooded and banks eroded away, until they become a trap for breeding turtles. Researchers have been reshaping parts of the beach to protect breeding grounds. 32 In a Queensland first, drones are being used to collect data. “They will also provide for far more efficient and accurate topographic mapping, which will be crucial in keeping track of the ongoing changes to the sand profile of the island’s nesting beach.” “A weather station, tide and wave recorder and nesting depth sand temperature and water inundation sensors are being used to monitor the physical turtle nesting environment,” he said. Raine Island Recovery Project Manager and turtle researcher Dr Andy Dunstan said early results of the topographic mapping were showing that the reprofiled area of beach was maintaining itself and resulting in more hatchlings being produced.