Turtle Island

Turtle Island is a place 1,900 km way up north of Perth in Cone Bay, and approximately 200 km north east of Broome.

If you look really hard…..you still won’t find it

It is a beautiful little island that has also been operating as a work base for pearling and finfish aquaculture since 1988. The island itself includes offices, accommodation and facilities for staff all year round, as well as fish and pearl nurseries, hatcheries and workshops.

Turtle Island, looking back to the mainland (Source: J. Hutton, Maxima Pearling Company)

It is only 640 m long and 250 m at its widest point, made out of mostly granite rock outcrops and shell grit. The waters around the island are known for their fast, dynamic tides and circulation patterns. There is native wildlife aplenty, with sea eagles, hawks, pied oystercatchers, doves, and sulphur-crested cockatoos, making their home off the island, as well as snakes, and crocodiles making their home on the island (much to the consternation of island crew). It also has no turtles (make of that what you will).

Urbaqua were very fortunate to be invited up to the island by the Maxima Pearling Company in December 2019 to undertake a site visit as part of the preparation of an Environmental Management Plan for the island.

Halinka got a pretty spectacular view of the island from the chopper

As part of this process (a very excited) Halinka flew to Broome, drove to Derby, and was flown by chopper to the island and back for a whirlwind 24 hour visit of the island’s facilities. Recording observations, taking multitudes of photos, and getting to know staff and what was involved with the operations were the key activities of the visit (as well as the requisite BBQ and reminder to stay off the beaches at night to avoid the crocs). A boat ride was also taken across to the mainland to check out the continually flowing natural spring which provides fresh water for all island activities, via gravity fed pipes across the sea floor.

Halinka at the natural spring on the Kimberley mainland, which provides all the island’s fresh water

Using information gained from the site visit, an Environmental Management Plan (EMP) was prepared based on the principles of the Environmental Protection Act 1986 and summarised by the Environmental Protection Authority’s (EPA) key environmental factors and corresponding environmental management objectives that require consideration for any proposed activity on the environment.

The EMP was developed to clearly define the environmental management obligations for the island, as well as identify environmental risks and key management practices and control measures to address those risks. On a more practical level it also included a timeline and checklist of actions for site supervisors as part of ongoing environmental monitoring and reporting.

In the almost year since that site visit, a number of the EMP’s checklist of actions have been implemented including waste disposal and tree maintenance.

All in all it had to be one of Halinka’s favourite jobs of 2019 (hardly believing she was getting paid to go on her first helicopter ride and visit a pristine corner of Australia that a very select group would ever get to see, and would unlikely ever see again – 40 degree and 95% humidity conditions at 7am was definitely worth it). She can also guarantee the deliciousness of the fish from Cone Bay.

So if you are fortunate enough to be in the market for a Maxima Cone Bay pearl, or see any delicious looking Barramundi from Cone Bay in the supermarket – chances are it comes from Turtle Island!