cliffBallina crab boat skipper Cliff Corbett got more than he bargained for on a fishing trip today.

At around 11am today (Tuesday, September 15), Australian Seabird Rescue was relayed a message from the skipper of a crab fishing boat off Ballina. Cliff, skipper of the boat, saw a large turtle struggling at sea. 

“It was having trouble getting down. It’d swim a bit, then bob back up to the surface. Its name is Terri,” Cliff said.

Cliff arranged to meet the ASR marine wildlife rescue team at the Ballina boat harbour at around 2.30pm.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes,” Rochelle Ferris, ASR General Manager exclaimed after first seeing the turtle on board the fishing boat.

“It’s a flatback sea turtle! We’ve only ever had one other turtle of this species in care in the history of ASR. This is very unusual.”

Flatback (Natator depressus) sea turtles have a very limited range, only being found in the waters of Australia and Papua New Guinea. 

They are facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future and are listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).

The flatback turtle was rushed to the ASR Sanctuary for initial treatment. Volunteers Michelle Hall and Sergio Jacomy were on hand to apply first aid for the turtle and assess its overall health. 

“It would appear that this one has been hit by a boat,” Rochelle said.

“It has a fracture in the shell which is quite unstable, and a very serious injury to the underside which is of greatest concern. 

“Unlike Sheldon, the very large sea turtle we rescued in January who was also suffering from a boat strike injury, this injury has presented a different set of complications.

“Getting the turtle brought to us from at sea has increased its chances of survival immensely.

“We’ll know more after a veterinary exam on Wednesday, but we can’t thank Mr Corbett enough for bringing it to shore.”

Meanwhile, Sheldon is now in the care of Seaworld and continues to improve. 

“We moved Sheldon to Seaworld. He was such a big turtle, he needed a bigger tank, with big friends. We visit him regularly and are very happy with his progress,” Rochelle said.