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Marine Life & Conservation

Turtle strandings on the rise this winter

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An unusual number of young turtles have been washing up on UK and Irish beaches due to stormy conditions, according to news from the Marine Conservation Society. And their advice is, if you find a turtle, do not return it to the sea – report it.

Since November, a number of turtle strandings have been reported to the Marine Conservation Society, and Marine Environmental Monitoring, which maintains the database of UK and Irish turtle sightings.

In total, thirteen turtles have been reported: twelve loggerheads and one rare Kemp’s ridley turtle, all relatively small juveniles between 20-50cm in shell length. This is an unusually high number.

Most strandings have been in the south-west, with the furthest north being Anglesey. One was also reported on the west coast of Ireland in County Mayo.

Rod Penrose, who leads Marine Environmental Monitoring, said: “Although we see the most hard-shell turtle strandings and sightings between December and February, this year, we’ve had more than usual. They’re mostly juvenile or injured adults, so it’s thought that they struggled to fight the strong winds and currents of severe storms in their native waters of the US and Caribbean, where they were carried offshore into the Atlantic Gyre before ending up in cold UK waters”

Hard-shelled turtles, like loggerheads and Kemp’s ridleys, go into cold water shock in our chilly winter seas and do not survive for long periods in these conditions.

Of the turtles reported this season, four have been rescued and taken to specialist facilities to be rehabilitated and hopefully released in the future. Every effort is made to collect every individual found, so they can either be rehabilitated if alive, or examined, to understand what led to them arriving on UK and Irish shores.

The Marine Conservation Society asks anyone to report jellyfish and turtle sightings as part of its Wildlife Sightings programme.

Amy Pilsbury, Citizen Science Programme Developer at the Marine Conservation Society, said: “It’s important that we gather data on turtle sightings and strandings, as well as other marine life such as jellyfish, to build a picture of our seas. This vital information about our ocean’s inhabitants, and any changes in their frequency and whereabouts, contributes to scientific research which helps us to find solutions to protect our seas.”

What to do if you find a turtle

If you do find a stranded turtle, DO NOT put it back into the sea. It will be in cold shock and will need help. Instead, wrap the turtle in a damp towel and set it on its belly somewhere safe and sheltered, raising its back end slightly to allow any water to drain from its lungs.

Be sure to report the sighting as soon as possible so that the turtle can be taken to a specialist facility where it can hopefully recover or be treated.

For more information on what to do if you spot a turtle, download the Turtle Code.

Report turtle and jellyfish sightings to the Marine Conservation Society at www.mcsuk.org/what-you-can-do/citizen-science/sightings

Header image: Juvenile Loggerhead turtle. Found in Helston, Cornwall. Photo: Mike Pearson 

Marine Life & Conservation

Save the Manatee Club launches brand new webcams at Silver Springs State Park, Florida

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manatee

Save the Manatee® Club has launched a brand-new set of underwater and above-water webcams at Silver Springs State Park in Ocala, FL. These new cameras add to our existing cameras at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida, and Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, in Homosassa, Florida, which are viewed by millions of people worldwide. The cameras are a collaboration between Save the Manatee Club, Explore.org, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, who made the new live streaming collaboration possible via support of their interpretative program.

The above-water camera is a stationary pan/tilt/zoom camera that will show manatees and other wildlife from above water, while the new underwater camera provides the viewer with a brand new, exciting 180-degree viewing experience. Viewers can move the cameras around, trying to spot various fish and manatees.

The Silver River, which originates at Silver Springs, provides important habitat for manatees and many other species of wildlife. Over recent years, more manatees have been seen utilizing the Silver and Ocklawaha rivers. “The webcams provide a wonderful entertainment and educational tool to the general public, but they also help us with the manatee research,” says Patrick Rose, Executive Director of Save the Manatee Club. “We have learned so much through observing manatees on our existing webcams, and the new cameras at Silver Spring can add to the existing manatee photo-ID research conducted in this area, as well as highlighting Silver Springs and the Silver River as an important natural habitat for manatees.”

The webcams are streaming live during the daytime, with highlights playing at night, and can be viewed on Explore.org and on Save the Manatee Club’s website at ManaTV.org.

Save the Manatee Club, established in 1981 by the late renowned singer-songwriter, author, and entrepreneur Jimmy Buffett, along with former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham, is dedicated to safeguarding manatees and preserving their aquatic habitat. For more information about manatees and the Club’s efforts, visit savethemanatee.org or call 1-800-432-JOIN (5646).

Photo: www.avalon.red

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Marine Life & Conservation

Stranded dolphin rescued from muddy inlet

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dolphin

At around 11:40 on Friday 16 February, a lone common dolphin was reported to British Divers Marine Life Rescue circling in the shallows in an inlet at Place, near Portscatho, in Cornwall. A couple of volunteer Marine Mammal Medics were sent down initially to monitor the animal in hope it would be able to get away by itself, and further assess the situation.

After an hour and a half or so of observation, the risk of stranding increased significantly as the tide went out as the inlet is very shallow, muddy and almost completely dries out over low tide. Therefore, a larger response team was dispatched with more equipment in preparation for a stranding. Indeed, the animal did soon strand in the mud and fell onto its side, submerging the blowhole. Luckily the team were on hand to help get it upright again quickly, then bring it ashore for a health assessment and to begin providing first aid. No obvious injuries could be found and it measured 2.03m, later confirmed as female.

dolphin

The team were soon joined by two vets, who were able to confirm the animal to be in moderate nutritional condition and appeared otherwise okay following a more detailed health check, and so was suitable for the team to attempt to refloat. However, it was not possible to refloat it safely in the inlet due to the nature of the geography, substrate and tide there it seemed the most likely reason this dolphin had stranded was due to getting disoriented in this location, and would struggle to get out again. Luckily a local resident had his boat tender moored nearby and was happy to use it a transport craft to take the dolphin out to deeper water.

dolphin

With help, the boat was slid across the mud and launched near the mouth of the inlet. A surfboard was placed on one side with a soft mat on top for the dolphin to lie comfortably on during the journey. When ready, the dolphin was carried across in a tarpaulin, transferred to a mesh stretcher and loaded on board with a team of four Medics including a vet.

The boat then carefully made its way out to the mouth of the Percuil River, facing into Carrick Roads and close to open sea, which was the most ideal site for release where the chance of returning and re-dolphinstranding was lower. The dolphin was carefully hauled overboard in the stretcher and held alongside briefly, though as she started kicking strongly almost straight away it was hard to keep hold and so she was released quickly. The boat retreated and the team observed her circling in the middle of the channel until she was lost from sight. The team returned to the inlet before darkness fell.

dolphin

The area will be monitored over the weekend for re-sightings or re-strandings, but it is hoped that she will recover successfully and continue back out to sea. In the meantime BDMLR would like to thank the volunteer team, local residents and members of the public for all their efforts and support throughout this incident.

British Divers Marine Life Rescue is an international marine animal rescue organisation based in the UK and is a registered charity.  The aims of the organisation are to provide a rescue service for marine wildlife, to support existing rehabilitation centres and to develop new methods of rescue, treatment, transport and care.  Website www.bdmlr.org.uk.

Photos: Dan Jarvis

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