DUUUUDE: Bundy turtle hatchlings to ride the EAC
THE loggerhead hatchlings which had Bundaberg Mayor Jack Dempsey seeing red, have taken their first dip in the ocean, 20 kilometres off Mooloolaba.
Cr Dempsy was up in arms in February of news of up to 80 turtle eggs were collected from the rookery earlier this year and put into an incubator at Queensland Museum.
The hatchlings were showcased at Brisbane's World Science Festival and then the baby turtles were released into the ocean at Mooloolaba, instead of returning home.
During the 2018 World Science Festival Brisbane thousands of visitors flocked to The Hatchery to witness the miracle of baby loggerhead turtles hatching in front of their eyes.
Throughout the festival, visitors experienced nature's most valuable gift as the turtle hatchlings broke free from their shells and took their first breath of air.
The Hatchery event was set to highlight the importance of the Mon Repos Loggerhead Turtle Rookery as a conservation and ecotourism success story.
The event was undertaken with appropriate permits, approved by an Animal Ethics Committee and overseen by Dr Colin Limpus, a conservation biologist, who runs the Queensland Turtle Conservation Project for the Department of Environment and Science.
But when the festival was announced Cr Dempsey said it was the government department's "plot to undermine Mon Repos as Australia's iconic showcase of sea turtles".
"The government has asked council to introduce strict development controls at Mon Repos to protect the unique environment of the turtle hatchery," Cr Dempsey said in late February.
"We're happy to comply because we recognise the environmental significance and tourism value.
"It seems contrary to the spirit of this protection to remove eggs from their natural environment to put on a show for city kids."
Cr Dempsey said Bundaberg was the natural home of turtles.
These hatchlings are now expected to ride the Eastern Australian Current (or the EAC) past the northern tip of New Zealand and on to the coasts of Chile and Peru and they won't return to Queensland waters for around 16 years.
Queensland Museum herpetologist Patrick Couper said the hatchlings that survive to maturity will one day return to the 500 kilometre stretch of south east Queensland Coast between Capricorn Bunker Islands and the sand islands of Moreton Bay.
The whole process, from removing the turtle eggs from Mon Repos, keeping them in incubation and then releasing the hatchlings elsewhere was non disruptive, according to Mr Couper.
"One of the questions we often get asked is whether this interferes with the turtles' ability to find their way back to a nesting beach when they're old enough to breed. It doesn't," he said.
"Loggerhead turtle nesting occurs in South-east Queensland from the islands of the southern Great Barrier Reef to Moreton Bay, so we're actually hatching them in their natural breeding range."