Three critically endangered sea turtles have been rescued and released at Zenith Beach in Port Stephens.
Critically endangered Hawksbill Sea Turtle, Avalon was found washed up on Avalon Beach in Sydney in November 2020 extremely malnourished and underweight.
When Avalon was first rescued, the turtle only weighed 3.8 kilograms and could barely forage for food. Now, the turtle weighs 13.6 kilograms and powerfully swam straight off at Zenith Beach as soon as she was placed in the water.
Joining Avalon were a pair of Loggerhead Sea Turtles- Cutler, found on Cutler Beach in Gippsland in Victoria and Warnie, found in Warrnambool in Victoria in late 2021.
The pair were found affected by a condition known as Floater Syndrome, which causes the turtles to be buoyant at the surface of the water, meaning they could not get food underneath.
After being rescued and treated at Sea Life Aquarium in Sydney, Sea Life regional curator Laura Simmons said the three were released in Port Stephens because the area provides the perfect conditions for the turtles to thrive.
"You will see sea turtles in Port Stephens as it is not uncommon for that to be their natural habitat, but it isn't a nesting beach for them," she said.
"Port Stephens is a very nutrient rich location, the habitat itself is really good for them but they do travel a bit so we assume they will likely end up moving further north, potentially up into Queensland because of the temperature of the water and the food available.
"If there is great food and water temperatures where they are in Port Stephens they could remain in that area indefinitely."
Most turtles found washed up on beaches have ingested plastic, making them sick and unable to swim.
"It is common for turtles to wash up to shore for a variety of reasons. Turtles can be hit by boats, they can be trapped in fishing gear, they can ingest marine plastics," said Ms Simmons.
"Turtles in Australia aren't at as much risk of things like netting and fishing gear entanglement like they are in other parts of the world, but here marine plastics, general ill health or severe storms are a big risk to them."
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