England

British Isles turtle strandings rise in storms

Turtle Image copyright David Fenwick
Image caption A young barnacle-encrusted loggerhead turtle was found stranded at Gwithian beach in Cornwall on 6 January and was taken to the Blue Reef Aquarium in Newquay

Winter storms have led to a spike in the number of turtles washed up in the British Isles.

Sixteen warm-water turtles were found on shorelines in December - the highest number for that month since 2008, according to Marine Environmental Monitoring and Cork Nature Network.

Some, such as endangered Kemp's Ridley turtles, come from as far away as the Gulf of Mexico.

Experts believe storms Desmond, Eva and Frank have led to the increase.

Image copyright Google

Turtles are carried across the Atlantic by the Gulf Stream, but winter storms "have been tough on them" said the Marine Conservation Society (MCS).

Spokesman Dr Peter Richardson said: "The first strandings started with Storm Desmond.

"You probably had a group of turtles feeding on jellyfish and then Storm Desmond blew them into our chilly waters.

"When it gets cold they don't function. Loggerheads stop feeding after 15C (59F) and shut down at 10C (50F)."

Image copyright Oceanworld Aquarium
Image caption Una the loggerhead turtle is being cared for at Oceanworld Aquarium in Dingle after being found alive in West Cork

If turtles are found alive, they are usually hypothermic and starved "so they are in a really bad condition when they wash up", he said.

And he predicted many more would be found over the winter if Britain was hit by another run of storms.

There have been four turtles found so far this year, including a small young loggerhead found at Gwithian in Cornwall on 6 January.

Image copyright Exeter University
Image caption A loggerhead turtle was reported dead stranded at Kennack Sands in Cornwall on 27 December

It has been in a special quarantine unit at the Blue Reef Aquarium in Newquay, where staff have been working around the clock to save its life.

General manager Steve Matchett said: "He's still going, which is a bit of a surprise for us all because he was so weak.

"We are warming him up slowly and he is taking on larger amounts of fluid.

"If he continues to gain strength we will start feeding him squid through a tube.

"What we don't know is if there is any long-term internal damage such as organ failure, so it's pretty touch and go."

Image copyright Julie Hatcher
Image caption One of three rare Kemp's Ridley turtles washed up dead in Dorset

On 23 December a live loggerhead turtle found near Worth Matravers in Dorset had to be put to sleep because of its injuries.

Since then, three critically-endangered Kemp's Ridley Turtles have been found dead by beach walkers at West Bay, West Bexington and Kimmeridge.

If someone finds a stranded turtle, they are advised to contact wildlife experts on a list published by the MCS as soon as possible.


TURTLE STRANDINGS IN BRITISH ISLES 1 December - 11 January

Date/type/status/where

  • 1 December/Kemp's Ridley/alive/Cornwall, England
  • 5 December/Loggerhead/alive/North Ayrshire, Scotland
  • 6 December/Green Turtle/dead/Gwynedd, Wales
  • 6 December/Kemp's Ridley/dead/Cornwall, England
  • 12 December/Kemp's Ridley/alive/Ceredigion, Wales
  • 18 December/Kemp's Ridley/dead/Gwynned, Wales
  • 18 December/Loggerhead/alive/Pembrokeshire/Wales
  • 20 December/Loggerhead/alive/Wexford, Republic of Ireland
  • 22 December/Loggerhead/alive/Dorset, England
  • 23 December/Loggerhead/dead/Waterford, Republic of Ireland
  • 27 December/Loggerhead/dead/Anglesey, Wales
  • 27 December/Loggerhead/dead/Cornwall, England
  • 28 December/Loggerhead/alive/West Cork, Republic of Ireland
  • 29 December/Kemp's Ridley/dead/Dorset, England (TWO)
  • 31 December/Kemp's Ridley/dead/Dorset, England
  • 06 January/Loggerhead/alive/Cornwall
  • 06 January/Loggerhead/dead/Isle of Man
  • 08 January/Leatherback/dead/Aberdeenshire, Scotland
  • 10 January/Loggerhead/alive/Jersey

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