Dermochelys coriacea

Range & Status

The Leatherback Turtle is found throughout the world' s oceans and is a pelagic species. It has the widest distribution of all the turtles and often undertakes long-distance migrations between its feeding grounds in temperate waters and nesting beaches in the tropics. It has been recorded at sea to the north of Norway and as far south as New Zealand (Marine Conservation Society, UK, 2008b).

In UK waters the Leatherback is the most commonly sighted marine turtle and has a distinct, seasonal occurrence. Hence, it can be regarded as native to our waters as this undoubtedly constitutes part of the species' natural range, as it follows the Gulf Stream in pursuit of its prey of jellyfish (Herpetological Conservation Trust, 2008; UK Biodiversity Group, 1999). Its main threats come from mistaking fishing floats for prey, consequently drowning after becoming entangled by the attachment ropes. These turtles also swallow plastic bags and other plastic debris which may lead to mortality.

Strandings & Sightings

Since the first record of two specimens in 1756 there have been 148 records between 1835 and 2007. The following numbers include strandings as well as actively swimming animals: 1952 (2), 1983 (2), 1986 (2), 1989 (2) 1992 (2), 1967 (3), 1976 (3), 1980 (3), 1985 (3), 1991 (3), 1995 (3), 1996 (2), 1997 (1), 1988 (17), 1990 (17), 1998 (3), 1999 (15), 2000 (12), 2001 (5), 2002 (22), 2004 (2), 2005 (16), 2006 (7), 2007 (1).

Conservation

Listed as Critically Endangered. (Sarti Martinez, A.L. 2000. Dermochelys coriacea . In: IUCN 2007. 2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. www.iucnredlist.org. Downloaded on 04 March 2008.) This is also an OSPAR priority species (OSPAR, 2004).