By Rodney Stevens.
A large green sea turtle in care at Ballina's Australian Seabird Rescue is making a slow recovery from float syndrome after swallowing plastic.
Australian Seabird Rescue manager Kath Southwell said the turtle, estimated to be 70 years of age, was found washed up on Dreamtime Beach near Kingscliff on January 15.
Ms Southwell said due to the condition of the turtle, that volunteers have called Ventura, she estimated it had been suffering float syndrome for five to six months.
"He had a really bad case of float syndrome and he was covered in barnacles on his flippers, face and tail, and algae on half of his shell," she said.
"Most sick turtles that have float syndrome end up covered in algae and barnacles."
Ms Southwell said turtles suffering float syndrome were unable to eat their normal diet of sea grasses and weed as their bodies were filled with gas preventing them from diving to the bottom of the ocean.
If left untreated, the animal would slowly starve.
After three days in care, Ms Southwell said Ventura showed signs of improvement when he passed some of the plastic and began eating.
"He poohed out a piece of plastic like a lollypop stick, a piece of blue braided fishing line and small piece of black plastic."
Since then Ventura has had some of the gas inside him removed by aspiration.
"Keith Williams injected the turtle with an empty syringe and sucked the gas out and we got close to four litres of air out of him. He's still got float syndrome but it's nowhere near as bad now."
The 75kg turtle is eating 500 grams of seaweed and 300 grams of fish a day to help pass the rest of the plastic. It is hoped Ventura will build up to eating 3kg of food a day to return to its goal weight of 90kg, which could take up to six months.