ROAM FREE! Australian Seabird Rescue perform a triple turtle release at Lighthouse Beach in Ballina to a massive crowd.
ROAM FREE! Australian Seabird Rescue perform a triple turtle release at Lighthouse Beach in Ballina to a massive crowd. Marc Stapelberg

Emotional celebration as hundreds gather for turtle release

WHEN Viggo the turtle was rescued 31 weeks ago, he was on the brink of death.

Yesterday, the critically endangered hawksbill turtle who's "heath had been on a spiral of ups and downs" was released back into the sea in full health.

It was an emotional time for Australian Seabird Rescue volunteers and around 500 community members who celebrated his release along with two other green sea turtles at Lighthouse Beach in Ballina yesterday.

General Manager Kathrina Southwell said it was one of the biggest turnouts at their turtle releases.

"Viggo came to us eight months ago suffering from float syndrome, internal infections and burrowing barnacles," she said.

"The volunteers spent two to three times a day scrubbing him and healing all of his wounds and he's now ready after putting on a fair bit of weight."

Two other turtles - Pink and Jimmy - were also released after putting on weight from spending a few months in care recovering from float syndrome.

Float Syndrome is an accumulation of gas that can be caused by a sea turtle ingesting a foreign object such as a hook, fishing line, plastics, and other garbage items.

It causes the turtle to become buoyant and means it can't dive down to eat and often sees the turtle starving, but it also makes it more vulnerable to predators like sharks or boat traffic in the area.

Treatment for the condition typically involves a process of rehydration for the turtle, activating the GI tract once the animal has passed its faeces and then re-nourishing it back to health.

Ms Southwell said while this time of year is busy for the volunteers, it's currently unusually busy.

"We had to release the turtles today because we had another two come in (on Thursday) so we are up to about nine turtles in care.

"We are expecting to have a full house all over summer."

"If you ever find a turtle on the beach please do not put it back in the water. Make sure you call Australian Seabird Rescue so we can assess the situation."

Until October 12 ASR does school holiday tours at 10am weekdays.