MARINE TURTLES

J.E. Loveridge and R. Dennis

Of the seven species of marine turtle, five have been recorded in British waters. In Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly three species have been positively identified and are likely to have been borne on the Gulf Stream. In 1867 a Hawksbill Turtle Eretmochelys imbricata (Linnaeus) and in 1874 a Green Turtle Chelonia mydas (Linnaeus) were reported, but some doubt remains over both these reports. With the possible exception of the Loggerhead Turtle Caretta caretta (Linnaeus), which may be at the extreme edge of its range, the cheloniid species are believed to arrive in British waters unintentionally.

Though sightings and strandings have gradually increased, the conservation status of turtle species around the British Isles is unknown since they are a difficult group of animals to study. The increase in reports over recent years may be as a result of greater publicity and improved rates of record submission (UK Biodiversity Group, 1999).

All five species of marine turtle are listed on Appendix I of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) 1975, Appendix II of the Bern Convention 1979, Appendices I and II of the Bonn Convention 1979 and Annex IV of the EC Habitats Directive. The Loggerhead Turtle is also listed as a priority species on Annex II of the EC Habitats Directive. All species are protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Conservation (Natural Habitats & c.) Regulations 1994. (BAP UK Biodiversity Group, 1999.)

This report comprises records of strandings and sightings of turtle species around the coasts of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. All three turtles listed below are covered by the UK Marine Turtles Grouped Species Action Plan (UK Biodiversity Group, 1999).

Dermochelys coriacea Leatherback Turtle

Caretta caretta Loggerhead Turtle

Lepidochelys kempi Kempís Ridley Turtle