Breaking News:

Murder investigation launched in Weymouth

Rare endangered turtle spotted near Portland

Rare endangered turtle spotted near Portland

Published by George Sharpe at 12:02am 3rd September 2019.

A rare leatherback turtle's been spotted near Shambles Bank off Portland.

Local residents Mike Lewis and Keith Moore say they were out in their fishing boat when they noticed something in the water.

Mike said:

"We were on a fishing boat heading out to the Shambles Bank off Portland at about 8.30am when we both saw it in the water. Our first thought was that it was a basking shark but as we got closer, we soon realized it was a turtle - about 1.5 - 2 metres in length, and it appeared to be feeding on a large barrel jellyfish just below the surface.  We made sure it wasn't in distress or tangled up and watched it until it disappeared. We've fished around Portland for over 30 years and seen porpoises, dolphins and seals, so this was a red-letter day for us!" 

It's thought the turtle may be visiting shallower waters in search of jellyfish, which they prey on. Jellyfish have been out in large numbers across Dorset's coast all summer.

Coastal Marine Centres Assistant, Sarah Hodgson said:

"We were really excited to hear about this sighting of a leatherback turtle.  These are incredibly rare visitors to the Dorset Coast.  With so many barrel jellyfish about this year, the turtle's favourite food, there's always a possibility that these magnificent marine giants might turn up, and Mike and Keith were very lucky to witness this." 

A Dorset Wildlife Trust Spokesperson said: 

"Leatherback turtles are ocean wanderers and visit UK waters in the summer to feast on jellyfish. There are seven global species of turtle and this is the biggest species, and the most frequently recorded in the UK. They can weigh up to 1500 pounds and are the largest sea turtle species found in the ocean.  Globally, they are listed as being vulnerable to extinction with many populations critically endangered and at risk of extinction.  Marine conservationists are particularly concerned about turtles eating plastic found in the ocean, mistaking it for food."

Marine turtles are protected by law, so care should be taken if you see one. They are slow swimmers, so give them plenty of space and keep your speed down.