Monday, January 16, 2023

Sarah Slater

An endangered species of turtles have been washing up along the Irish and UK coastlines over the past number of days.

A loggerhead turtle was washed up on the Mayo coast over the weekend, while earlier last week a live turtle was found on a beach in Anglesea.

The turtle found in Port Glais, Co Mayo was discovered by a member of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group over the weekend but was unfortunately dead.

Loggerheads sea turtles normally nests along the US coast, but many migrate to neighbouring nations such as the Bahamas, Cuba, and Mexico, meaning it was some 4,500kms from its normal habitat.

The species is unable to tolerate the colder winter sea temperatures around Ireland and the UK, which are currently at around 8 degrees. In the winter months there are regular strandings of the species on Irish beaches and up the west coast of Britain.

Loggerhead turtles become extremely sluggish in water below 15 degrees and once the temperature drops to 10 degrees or below, particularly if it is a very sudden temperature drop such as a storm suddenly stirring up colder currents, they become comatose with a condition known as ‘cold shock’.

The sea turtle is known for its large head, which supports powerful jaw muscles that enable them to feed on hard-shelled prey, such as whelks and conch.

The discovery of loggerhead turtles on Irish coasts is a rare occurrence, with just 13 such incidents being recorded since 2003.

In November 2019, a loggerhead turtle was discovered on a beach in Roundstone, Co Galway while another was found in Carna in December 2021.

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group is asking members of the public to “keep an eye out and report any live turtles to Oceanworld Aquarium Dingle”.

“Please check carefully as cold shocked turtles can appear dead at first,” the group added.

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