Sea Shelter green sea turtle release in Nelson Bay a highlight in otherwise 'concerning' trend of deaths in Port Stephens

HEALTHY: Nelson Bay couple John and Mandy Dedman helping Sea Shelter founder Ryan Pereira release Krill back into the ocean on September 7. Picture: Supplied
HEALTHY: Nelson Bay couple John and Mandy Dedman helping Sea Shelter founder Ryan Pereira release Krill back into the ocean on September 7. Picture: Supplied

A juvenile green sea turtle that had been in the care of Sea Shelter for six months while recovering from an intestinal disease has been released back into the wild.

The Port Stephens rescue and conservation organisation has now successfully rehabilitated and released three green sea turtles, a vulnerable species, in the past year with Krill being the latest.

Lia Pereira, who founded Sea Shelter with husband Ryan in 2017, said Krill's successful rehabilitation and release was particularly good news as the team been alerted to 10 green sea turtle deaths by the public in Port Stephens so far this year.

"In Port Stephens we are seeing an unsettling amount of sea turtles washed up dead. This is extremely concerning," Mrs Pereira said.

"Myself, Ryan and all the Sea Shelter volunteers are so happy to see Krill go back home. We have had a lot of calls about dead turtles washed up lately so it's great to have some good news."

Krill is a juvenile green sea turtle with a carapace (shell) measuring 50cm.

She was found by an ocean swimmer in Corlette in March. Mrs Pereira said a man named John had been enjoying his daily swim when he felt something bump into him. It was Krill.

"She had a heavy starboard list [leaning to the right] and was struggling to swim," she said. "John gave us a call and Ryan... drove down to rescue Krill."

She was taken to Sea Shelter's base of operation at Irukandji Shark and Ray Encounters in Anna Bay, which the Pereira's own and run, where faecal samples were taken.

Testing revealed that that Krill had an infestation of Coccidiosis - a parasitic disease of the intestines. She was also underweight and had an "excessive amount" of barnacles.

Mrs Pereira said Krill responded well to treatment, which involved a course of antibiotics, and her weight grew from 9 kilos to 14. The barnacles were also removed.

With help from Nelson Bay couple John and Mandy Dedman, Mr Pereira released Krill back into the ocean on September 7.

The Dedman's had won a World Ocean's Day competition run by Sea Shelter in June where the team who collected the most amount of rubbish from the Port's beaches won the prize of helping to release Krill.

The couple collected 805 pieces of rubbish from Nelson Bay and Little Beach to win the competition.

"John and Mandy released the straps of the transport sling freeing Krill," Mrs Pereira said.

"She took a little time to get her bearings, sitting very still. John and Ryan then placed her on the edge of the water [then she] was super excited to go home, off into the wild blue yonder."

So far in 2021 Sea Shelter have rescued and cared for one hawksbill turtle, one loggerhead sea turtle, two numb rays, six eastern longneck turtles and five green sea turtles (counting two in care since 2020).

Of those, six have been successfully rehabilitated and released including two green sea turtles, Gabby and Krill.

Currently in care is green seal turtles Beryl and Elvis and eastern long neck turtles Severus and Plop.

Mrs Pereira said said that Sea Shelter had received calls for a number of marine animals that had been found dead including the 10 green sea turtles, 11 numb rays and "countless Sea Hares after the [March] storm event and intermittently ever since".

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