Turtles In Our Seas
Leatherback turtle seen in The Minch off Western Isles
A leatherback turtle has been spotted in the sea off Scotland.
Crew members of the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust research vessel Silurian estimated it was about 1.5m (5ft) long.
They saw the turtle in The Minch, a stretch of water between the Western Isles and mainland Scotland.
Dave Hanna, skipper of the Silurian, said seeing the turtle was the most exciting moment of his life.
The leatherback is the world's biggest turtle and listed as Critically Endangered, largely because of poaching for eggs and snaring in fishing gear.
Typically between 1m and 2m long, the animals weigh up to three-quarters of a tonne and can swim across entire oceans, returning to their ancestral nesting sites to breed every few years.
In 2002, a rare green turtle was found dead off Loch Inver on the north west coast of Scotland.
At the time it was believed to be only the third recorded discovery of a green turtle in Scottish waters in more than 150 years.
The animal normally lives in tropical and sub-tropical waters and scientists said it probably perished in the cold after losing its way.
Leatherbacks nest in the tropics but have been spotted previously off the UK, with one sighting made near a beach at Cleveleys in Lancashire last June.
The turtle, which is a critically endangered species, was seen by Simon Smith as he was out walking his dog on the beach at Cleveleys. Mr Smith said he saw it about 50 yards (46m) offshore and watched for about two hours as it fed on jellyfish.
The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has urged coastal path walkers and people in boats to look out for the turtles and report any sightings.
“Does this mean that our seas are getting warmer, although we would not like to swim in them” says Greengates Builders Merchants Accrington, Lancashire