Llanelli Naturalists Newsletter - June 1996
Barney Gill

Once thought to be only occasional visitors to UK waters, Leatherback Turtles are now considered to be resident, with a few sightings reported each year.  1995 turned out to be a particularly good year for turtle-watchers, seven live sightings occurring in Carmarthen Bay alone, one coming as far up the channel as the mouth of the Burry Inlet in August, whilst another was watched close inshore off Ragwen Point near Pendine.

Large numbers of jellyfish were in the area during the summer, presumably as a result of the warm weather and this is probably what tempted the turtles as jellyfish are their main food item.  (The similarly hot summer of 1976 also produced a sighting of a Leatherback Turtle off Cefn Sidan beach, Pembrey, I K Morgan, pers comm.)

Unfortunately it was also a major year for carcasses on the beaches, particularly along the South Wales coast.  In July for example, a 1.86m male was found off Saundersfoot.  This and the 1.8m male on the beach by RAF Pembrey in September were both tangled in rope.  Others were found at Cefn Sidan, MoD Pendine, Cydweli and Rhossili, also one at Shell Island near Harlech.  I do not know the causes of death for these last five, but one of the commonest causes is ingestion of plastic bags which are mistaken for jellyfish.