Kathrina Southwell, GM, Australian Seabird Rescue
At 3:30 pm I was closing up the office and in a really good mood because I had heard the mesh nets they have put in at Ballina and Lennox were being temporarily removed due to some bad weather coming.
The rescue phone rang and I had just missed the call. I checked messages and a man had messaged saying he had seen a large turtle 300 metres offshore of Lennox opposite the Lennox Hotel. He called back and I told him I would go and look for it.
The rescue phone was ringing non-stop with locals telling me about a large loggerhead that had washed up just south of the hotel.
By the time I arrived at the beach there was quite a crowd of people surrounding the endangered and protected female turtle. They had dragged her up the beach.
Her carapace length was approximately 60cms, which made her around 25 years old, not quite breeding size yet. She has obvious net indentations on her front and back flippers and around her mouth.
She was crying tears of blood and was swollen, like she had drowned.
My understanding is the mesh nets for the shark net trial were taken out sometime today (Wednesday) due to imminent bad weather approaching.
In my opinion, it is possible this turtle was entangled in the nets and was released by the contractors or managed to free herself after inhaling too much water and later drowning.
Loggerhead turtles are endangered and are also protected.
This was a devastating find for me as manager of Australian Seabird Rescue and the Ballina Byron Sea Turtle Hospital, knowing these loggerheads nest at Lennox Head on the beach.
The children and adults that were on the beach were clearly distressed by the turtle’s death. While I was taking photos, two tourists approached me and asked about the turtle. They were visiting Lennox Head from USA and decided they would go and stay in Byron Bay where there are no shark nets.
It is important for me to make it clear that not one person on the Lennox Head beach today want the shark nets. Every single local I spoke wanted the nets removed.