Leatherback Turtle washed up on Porthtowan Beach
Save our oceans from plastic! Plastic free! But why are we doing it? Well did you know that we have Leatherback Turtles swimming from tropical waters to our UK waterways every year from May-September? They feed on the jellyfish that appear in our waters over the summer. Sadly plastic bags can be mistaken by them for jellyfish which is exactly what happended to this turtle. In 1988 it was found washed up on Porthtowan beach. It was six feet long (1.8m) and weighed nearly 750lbs (340kg) when it washed in, it is thought to be around 80years old.
When the taxidermist opened him up he found a clear plastic bag together with a strand of orange fishing twine lodged in its gullet; suffocation seemed the likely cause of death.
What happened to the turtle?
After being rescued from the beach, it's body was preserved and is on display at the St Agnes Museum. Roger Radcliffe, Chairman of the museum Trust said: "Today, we get schools groups and others coming to see the turtle as a starting point for their work on the topic of 'plastic in the sea'. For our younger visitors, aged 3-7, we have a story called 'Sam and the Leatherback Turtle' to listen to (recorded by an actor for us), and an exciting Treasure Chest to explore, filled with puppets of sea creatures, jigsaws, books, and more". The museum us open 7 days a week 10.30am-5pm.
We've even hear that this tutle inspired M&S's plastic bag policy!
What do we know about Leatherback Turtles and how can we help?
The Leatherback Turtle is the largest turtle of all living turtles and can be found around the world from of Alaska and Norway, down to Africa and New Zealand! They can live up to 100 years old, with an average life span of 45 years and can grow up to 7 feet and weigh 2000 pounds, but this doesn't stop them be really agile in the water. They have the ability to dive up to 1200 metres and can move more than 21mph in water! These are incredible creatures and we have them on our doorstep.
The sad thing is that these incredible creatures that swim in our waters around Cornwall are in decline. Why? The first human hazard is when they are eggs humans take the eggs for subsistence or as aphrodisiacs (National Geographic), which is something we can't directly impact on here in UK as they nest abroad. The next hurdles we can do something about. Swimming in our seas they are subjected to fishing lines, nets, being struck by boats and can mistake floating plastic for they food source - jellyfish.
What can I do about it I hear you say? Well the plastic part we can do something about so we can save turtles like this one from a stomach full off plastic which isn't very nourishing! Reuse plastic, up cycle plastic, don't through plastic away and look for alternatives to plastic bags and packaging. Our local shops will use paper bags and no plastic non recyclable packaging. If you stop throwing away plastic and look out along the South West Coast from May - September when the jellyfish are about you might just be lucky and get a glimpse of one of these incredible reptiles coming up for air! We did on one our North Coast Kayak Adventures and if there are more turtles surviving as we reduce the number of human hazards we might all see more turtles right here in Cornwall! It's incredible to think they are here! Cornwall is such an incredible place to see amazing wildlife let's keep it that way.