Now Britain gets its own monster from the deep

The big, amorphous blob which caused such a stir when it was washed up on a Tasmanian beach turned out to be whale blubber. Now a genuine, entire monster of the deep has come ashore on the Suffolk coastline. And there is no doubting what it is - a quarter of a tonne of very recently deceased leatherback turtle, measuring more than two metres from nose to tail.

It was found stranded in the surf on the beach at Sizewell nuclear power station by a woman walking her dog. It required a fork lift truck, borrowed from Nuclear Electric, to get the corpse out of the waves and safety ashore before the tide carried it back out to sea. Then, Froglife, the reptile and amphibian conservation organisation which supervised the recovery, had the turtle trucked down to London Zoo's Institute of Zoology for a post mortem examination.

That was performed by the zoo's veterinary pathologist, Andrew Cunningham, and Brendan Godley of Glasgow University's Marine Turtle Research Group. They found the turtle, weighing as much as three men, to be in good condition internally and externally apart from old and infected wounds on its shoulder and left eye. These would have left it half blind and with impaired mobility and probably contributed to its death. The scientists believe the shoulder wound was the result of being entangled in a fishing net or rope. Tissue samples will be analysed to find out what burden of pollutants and toxins the turtle was carrying.

Mr Godley said more than 50 leatherbacks had been washed up on the British shoreline during the 1990s, but the great majority had been on the west coast. They were almost always badly decomposed so finding a near pristine specimen on the North Sea coast was a great rarity.

The largest of seven marine turtle species, the black, white and crimson reptiles swim thousands of miles across oceans in a year, live for decades and do not even start to breed until they are 10 years old. They bury their eggs in the sand of tropical beaches but they swim into the cold waters of high latitudes for their jellyfish prey. They have no hard external shell, relying on sheer bulk and the toughness of bone and hide to deter predators.

"They're extremely endangered," said Mr Godley. Their fate is either to be caught accidentally in nets, then wounded or drowned, or to be killed for their meat when they come ashore to breed. Their eggs are also dug up and eaten.

Thousands of porpoises are also killed by fishing nets each year in the waters around Britain. Now a study is to take place into whether "pingers" - small, underwater acoustic devices - can reduce the death toll. These should deter the marine mammals, but not fish.

Irish and Cornish fishermen are taking part in a year-long evaluation of electronic pingers in the Western Approaches. They will be attached to gill nets, set in a long line on the sea bed and left for a day or two to trap fish swimming through.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there