Update: Kemp's ridley turtle rescued on Seaford Beach

Date posted: 20 January 2020

A kemp’s ridley turtle (initially misidentified as an olive ridley) usually found in the Gulf of Mexico, was spotted injured off Seaford beach in East Sussex this weekend. The most endangered sea turtle in the world was rescued by swimmers, but sadly later died following treatment at Brighton’s Sea Life Centre for emergency care.

Olive ridley
© Shutterstock

“At this time of year young sea turtles often strand on our shores after getting swept out of the Atlantic and into the UK’s chilly seas. The kemp’s ridley is the most endangered of sea turtles, only nesting on a few beaches in the Gulf of Mexico, but it is one of the turtle species most commonly encountered stranding on UK beaches in the winter.”

Dr Peter Richardson,
Head of Ocean Recovery

At this time of year, it is likely that hard-shelled turtles washing ashore will be cold-stunned. Given that these hard-shelled turtles are most commonly found in warmer climes, it is important than any sightings are reported to ensure turtles receive the support and rehabilitation they need as soon as possible. Any turtles found on the shore should be moved away from the sea, either for rescue or recovery of the carcass for a post-mortem, MCS urges those who find turtles to not put the turtles back in the sea as this would likely cause further shock to the animals and risks killing them.

The UK Turtle Code provides comprehensive advice for sea users on how to deal with turtle sightings and contact details for agencies best placed to support the rehabilitation and protection of the animals.

Dr Peter Richardson, Head of Ocean Recovery at MCS said: “”At this time of year young sea turtles often strand on our shores after getting swept out of the Atlantic and into the UK’s chilly seas. The kemp’s ridley is the most endangered of sea turtles, only nesting on a few beaches in the Gulf of Mexico, but it is one of the turtle species most commonly encountered stranding on UK beaches in the winter. Kemp’s ridleys are a conservation success story. They were on the brink of extinction in the 1980s, with only a few hundred females recorded nesting, with declines due to egg collection and fisheries bycatch.”

“Since then Mexico has protected its nesting beaches, and Turtle Excluder Devices have been used by Gulf of Mexico fishing boats, reducing lethal bycatch in shrimp trawl fisheries. As a result the kemp’s ridley population is recovering, with thousands of females recorded nesting in Mexico, and that is why we are now seeing youngsters sometimes strand on our shores. Ridleys are warm water turtles, and so are usually very ill when they wash up in the UK winter, and they rarely survive rescue and rehabilitation. But some do survive, and that is why it is important to report stranded turtles, and never put them back in the sea.”

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