Report leatherback turtle sightings

leatherback_011104

Beachgoers are being asked to look out for endangered leatherback turtles which are currently visiting UK waters to feed on the huge numbers of jellyfish.

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) wants the public to report any turtles they see during August, the peak time to spot the creatures in UK waters, to see if there are any hotspots for them or areas where conservation measures are needed.

MCS specialists say the turtles are arriving from their nesting grounds in the Caribbean to feed on jellyfish, numbers of which, they believe, are rising, potentially providing more food for the critically endangered species.

Unlike other reptiles, says the MCS, leatherback turtles, which can weigh up to a tonne and grow to three metres (10ft) long, can maintain their own body heat up to 18C warmer than even the cold British summer seas.

This year, the Irish Sea in particular has been “turtle heaven” because of the huge numbers of jellyfish there, said Dr Peter Richardson, MCS’s biodiversity programme manager and turtle specialist.

There have already been a dozen sightings, compared with a recent average of about 20 turtles a summer