Bon voyage: Keith Williams, from the Ballina-based Australian Seabird Rescue, holds one of the endangered loggerhead turtle hatchlings released into the ocean off Ballina yesterday after being rescued from beach nests in the Byron Shire a month ago.
Bon voyage: Keith Williams, from the Ballina-based Australian Seabird Rescue, holds one of the endangered loggerhead turtle hatchlings released into the ocean off Ballina yesterday after being rescued from beach nests in the Byron Shire a month ago. Doug Eaton

Loggerhead turtles released to sea

FROM a sand-filled Esky out into the big blue sea off Ballina went 22 endangered baby loggerhead turtles yesterday.

The palm-sized creatures were released by the Ballina-based Australian Seabird Rescue from a boat 16km off the coast after they were found in nests on South Golden Beach and Tallow Beach in the Byron Shire a month ago.

Loggerhead turtles are currently on the Australian endangered species list and have declined by 70 per cent over the past 60 years.

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Australian Seabird Rescue project manager Keith Williams said the turtles released yesterday were the last survivors out of about 40 hatchlings the rescue group initially received.

“We have lost some, but the ones that were released today are very healthy and have done great,” he said.

“It is pretty rare for us to release loggerheads like this. This has been the biggest release of hatchlings we have ever done.

“There are normally 120 eggs in a nest, but there is only about a 50 per cent survival rate.

“So when we find them, we get them healthy, feed them up and get them back out there.”

The tiny turtle hatchlings were released on the edge of the strong Eastern Australian Current in an attempt to get them to ride the current out towards New Zealand and keep them away from any predators that tend to prowl the shallowerwaters.

Although they only weighed about 60 grams when released, if they survive they will live for about 40 years and reach 80kg.

Mr Williams said the rarity of loggerheads was partly due to human activity and he doubted they would come off the endangered species list any time soon.

“Most of the decline is due to human activity and commercial fishing operations,” he said.

“I don’t think they will come off the endangered list soon and if their numbers keep declining they will become critically endangered.”

If any early-morning walkers come across a turtle’s nest they should contact the Australian Seabird Rescue.



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