CROWDS cheered as Kaitlyn Cavanagh released the critically endangered hawksbill sea turtle, Evie, into the waves at Flat Rock in Ballina.
After a speedy five-week recovery from pneumonia and fluke worm, the turtle braved rough sea conditions on Australia Day and returned home to the ocean.
Evie was rescued from Woody Head in December and had barnacles covering 80% of her body.
Australian Seabird Rescue acting general manager, Tiffany Lee, said they placed Evie on drips and were lucky that this young, sick hawksbill responded so well.
"As a critically endangered species with a survival rate of one in 10,000, we were really lucky with Evie," she said.
"Evie came to us weighing 4kg and is approximately 8-10 years of age.
"Evie left us weighing 4.5kg.
"It was a really fast turn around.
"I think it was the fastest we have had for a hawksbill turtle."
Ms Lee said there were now two green turtles at the centre suffering from plastic ingestion.
She encouraged everyone to be aware of the dangers of plastic and its effect on local wildlife.