A LOGGERHEAD turtle was found dead in the Hastings River at Port Macquarie on Saturday, prompting a call to declare larger areas of local marine sanctuaries.
The majestic creature was estimated to be 150 years old, with a head almost as large as a human's.
Port Macquarie Cruise Adventures owner John Fowler found the sea turtle during one of his morning cruises. Parks and Wildlife services were called to help remove the body from the river.
Experts from Taronga Zoo will examine the turtle to determine its exact cause of death and age. Mr Fowler has been tracking up to five sea turtles in the river over the past few months and he found the death quite distressing. He speculated a massive impact area of damage on the back of the shell indicates it was possibly hit by a high speed boat or jet ski.
"This is the second sea turtle that has died in the Hastings River this summer," Mr Fowler said.
"This was the biggest turtle [I was tracking] and had stayed in the same area for most of the time. Our cruise passengers have been excited to have regular turtle sightings."
Coastal warm currents flowing through our waters have attracted a host of new sea creatures to the area.
Species of stingray and fish rarely seen along our coast have been spotted regularly this summer. Mr Fowler photographed a pod of estuary bottle nosed dolphins in the river.
"They have had an excellent breeding season this summer with up to five new babies being born since July," he said. "Another, larger dolphin pod that occupies the coastline along the beaches has had up to 10 new babies.
"These coastal dolphins also frequently venture into the Hastings River estuary to rest with their calves in the shallows around Pelican Island. Mr Fowler believes this important marine habitat should be declared a marine sanctuary with a 10-knot speed limit for all boats.
"The disturbance to our resident dolphins and death of two sea turtles is unacceptable," he said.