Reports herald the start of turtle stranding season

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 14 December 2017

Young turtles, called juveniles, wash up on UK beaches in the winter months, either dead or comatose, when they are caught up in currents accelerated by strong winds from the Atlantic. They struggle to survive for any length of time in our chilly seas.

Anyone finding a stranded turtle, such as this recent juvenile Kemp’s Ridley turtle, should not attempt to put it back in the sea, because if it is still alive, returning it to the sea will kill it.

Dr Peter Richardson,
MCS Head of Ocean Recovery

A leatherback turtle found tangled in rope off Orkney, and a rare Kemp’s Ridley discovered injured on a Cornish beach, could be just the start of a number of turtle strandings around the UK says an MCS turtle expert.

The crew of a fishing boat off the Orkney island of Shapinsay thought they had spotted a floating rubber mat, but on closer inspection discovered it was a leatherback turtle. Leatherbacks have distinctive shells which look ‘leathery’ and have often been likened to a floating settee!

The Orkney leatherback was described as being about 5ft long and tangled in rope with a buoy attached. The crew cut the rope away and then the buoy allowing the turtle to swim away unharmed.

In Cornwall, an injured Kemp’s Ridley turtle was rescued by a university student who initially thought the turtle – one of the most endangered sea turtles in the world – was dead.

Student, Dave Hudson, took the turtle, which has a damaged shell, to the Blue Reef Aquarium in Newquay where it is now being looked after.

MCS turtle expert and Head of Ocean Recovery, Dr Peter Richardson, says people out on the UKs beaches during the winter months should keep their eyes peeled: “These turtle reports herald the start of the winter turtle stranding season in the UK, when young turtles caught up in our chilly seas start washing up dead or comatose on our beaches.

“Anyone finding a stranded turtle, such as this recent juvenile Kemp’s Ridley turtle, should not attempt to put it back in the sea, because if it is still alive, returning it to the sea will kill it. Instead it should be taken to a cool, sheltered place away from the sea and reported immediately to one of the numbers on the UK Turtle Code. It will then be collected for post-mortem if dead, or careful rescue and rehabilitation of still alive.”

Actions you can take

  1. Adopt a turtle and support research and conservation projects

Did you know?…

To the shelf limits, Scotland has 61% of UK waters, of which 23% are now in existing or new ‘marine protected areas’

Over the last century, we have lost around 90% of the biggest predatory oceanic fish, such as tuna, swordfish and sharks

Plastic has been found in the stomachs of almost all marine species including fish, birds, whales, dolphins, seals and turtles

UK Turtle Code

Advice for sea users on how to deal with marine turtle encounters

Download the .pdf