A turtle hatchling is found next to a lump of coal at East Point Beach, Mackay.

A turtle hatchling is found next to a lump of coal at East Point Beach, Mackay.

The story behind the photo

09 Feb 2017

  • great barrier reef
  • world heritage

Earlier this week we were shocked when we received photos from a concerned citizen of a turtle hatchling emerging beside a lump of coal at East Point Beach, Mackay, near Hay Point – the largest coal port alongside the Great Barrier Reef.


That ‘concerned citizen’ was Lance Payne. Soon it was apparent his concern struck a chord around the country. 


His story was featured, not only across dozens of online news sites, but on television news bulletins and Channel 10’s The Project.


But while the photograph of the turtle starting its life beside a lump of coal garnered the most attention, it was one of many photographs showing coal and coal dust washing up and lining beaches within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. 


Lance told WWF he was on the beach that day looking for plastics.
“I have a pet hate, one that runs deeply…  it’s the plastics that end up in the ocean,” he said.
So he was picking up plastics when he saw a black rock that didn’t look like it belonged.    “I bent down to retrieve the mystery black rock, having picked it up, I toyed with it, in my hands … I realised it was coal!
“I lifted my head and looked across the bay to the coal port and swore expletives to myself.
“Then as I walked the three kilometres back to the car park, the magnitude of the ramifications, just hit me.

“These are troubling times we live in.”  



© Sian Breen / WWF-Aus

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