Hundreds of children and adults watch celebrity guests David and Gillian Helfgott release two turtles at Main Beach, Byron Bay.The turtles had been recovering in the care of the Ballina branch of the Australian Seabird Rescue after they were found washed up on the beach after eating plastic.
Hundreds of children and adults watch celebrity guests David and Gillian Helfgott release two turtles at Main Beach, Byron Bay.The turtles had been recovering in the care of the Ballina branch of the Australian Seabird Rescue after they were found washed up on the beach after eating plastic. Jay Cronan

Helfgotts shine a light on turtles

EVEN without a piano, David Helfgott knows how to captivate an audience.

In board shorts and bare feet, the musician made famous by the movie Shine yesterday held court on Byron Bay's Main Beach, flitting through the crowd with handshakes and hugs for everyone.

So immersed was he in meeting everyone there, he needed a reminder from wife Gillian to get back to the task at hand - the release of two green sea turtles back into the wild.

The event was designed to highlight the threat of plastic to marine wildlife and to garner support for the new Say No to Plastic Bags campaign.

Mrs Helfgott described turtle release as one of the most beautiful experiences of her life.

"As it moved out of my hand, you could feel its joy," she said.

The turtles carried back to the sea by the Helfgotts were found washed up on local beaches a few months ago, both severely emaciated, heavily barnacled and suffering from float syndrome as a result of eating plastic.

Dubbed Harry and Quattro, they were nursed back to health by Ballina-based group Australian Seabird Rescue.

Seabird Rescue general manager Rochelle Ferris said Harry and Quattro were now fighting fit, but still faced an uncertain future due to a dramatic increase in the amount of plastic debris in the oceans.

"With over 40% of the turtles brought into the hospital affected by plastic, their ongoing survival is by no means assured," she said.

Seabird Rescue and Say No to Plastic Bags have launched a petition - accessible online at w www.seabirdrescue.org - to ban the use of single-use plastic bags in NSW. Say No to Plastic Bags spokeswoman Dee Tipping said NSW lagged behind other states when it came to plastic bag reduction policies.

Mr Helfgott will perform at the Lismore City Hall tonight.



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