Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom

Research Article

Patterns of Marine Turtle Mortality in British Waters (1992–1996) with Reference to Tissue Contaminant Levels

B.J. Godleya1a2, M.J. Gaywooda3, R.J. Lawa4, C.J. McCarthya5, C. McKenziea6, I.A.P. Pattersona7, R.S. Penrosea8, R.J. Reida7 and H.M. Rossa8

a1 Department of Veterinary Anatomy, University of Glasgow Veterinary School, Bearsden Road, Glasgow, G61 1QH. E-mail:

a2 Institute of Biomedical and Life Sciences, Graham Kerr Building, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, G12 8QQ.

a3 Scottish Natural Heritage, Research and Advisory Services Directorate, 2 Anderson Place, Edinburgh, EH6 5NP.

a4 Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, CEFAS Burnham Laboratory, Remembrance Avenue, Burnham on Crouch, Essex, CMO 8HA.

a5 Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 5BD.

a6 FRS Marine Laboratory, PO Box 101, Victoria Road, Aberdeen, AB11 9DB.

a7 SAC Veterinary Science Division, Drummondhill, Inverness, Stratherrick Road, Inverness, IV2 4JZ.

a8 Marine Environmental Monitoring, Penwalk, Llechryd, Cardigan, SA43 2PS

Mortality patterns of marine turtles entangled in fishing gear, found dead at sea or stranded dead on and around the coast of Britain in the period 1992–1996 are described. Of a total of 38 dead turtles identified, 35 were leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) and three were loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta). All D. coriacea were considered adults or subadults nearing sexual maturity. Six individuals were assessed as females, ten were classified as males and 19 were not sexed. Dermochelys coriacea (N=20 measured) ranged from 120 to 210 cm in curved carapace length (mean, 152 cm). The three C. caretta were juveniles, and ranged from 15 to 30 cm curved carapace length. Possible origins, causes of mortality and interactions with fisheries are discussed. In addition, contaminant levels were determined in the tissues of three D. coriacea. Concentrations of organic contaminants determined were found to be low.