"Gnarly, duddddeeeee." That, according to one Australian man, is what it feels like to "surf" on a beached turtle. We can't believe we have to spell this out (again), but standing on marine life is illegal, stupid and carries hefty fines.

The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) is investigating after photos emerged of Gold Coast local Ricky Rogers and a friend standing on top of a beached green sea turtle on Australia's Frasier Island. One of the images has been shared over 10,000 times on various social media accounts, though Rogers has since removed the original from his Facebook and Instagram pages. 

"QPWS are taking this matter seriously," a representative said in an official statement, noting that the maximum fine for this kind of wildlife harassment is $19,965. 

A second photo, which shows the turtle facing head-down in the sand along with the letters R.I.P., seems to suggest the animal was already dead when the "surfing" incident occurred. However, marks in the area around the animal's flippers in the original photograph could be a sign that it was flailing during the encounter. 

Image: Matt Wright/Facebook

If the pair can prove the turtle was dead the entire time, their behaviour (condemnable as it may be) moves into a legal grey area, meaning they could evade punishment. Green sea turtles are listed as endangered by the IUCN, as many outraged commenters have pointed out on social media. However, different turtle populations have different protections, and in Australia, the animals are considered nationally vulnerableThe country's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act does protect all marine turtles in Australian waters from illegal harvest or harassment, but it also defines an act of harassment as one that "disturbs" an animal or natural resource. Whether that animal is alive or dead could therefore be a consideration here.

"It does look like the turtle is dead, but it’s hard to say for certain," the Sea Turtle Conservancy told us after looking at the images. "It appears to be a male (because of the long tail), so it being on land would also suggest it is dead." While it's unlikely that the weight of two men could break a sea turtle's carapace (shell), it certainly would hinder the animal's ability to breathe. 

This investigation comes just a month after several suspicious sea turtle carcasses were found on a beach just four hours north of Frasier Island. Locals suspected someone had attempted to harvest the turtles as they launched onto the beach to nest. Only those in possession of native title rights can legally hunt sea turtles in Australia, and breaching that law can land you a maximum penalty of two years in jail.

Nesting season near Queensland typically runs from December to February, but early arrivals can be seen laying as early as October. Should you be lucky enough to encounter one, give it a wide berth and keep hands – and feet! – off.