Highlands & Islands

Rare leatherback turtle seen in sea off Scotland

Turtle Image copyright Tom Horton
Image caption The leatherback was spotted by anglers fishing for tuna

A rare turtle that nests in the tropics has been spotted in the sea off Scotland.

The leatherback was spotted between St Kilda and the Isle of Harris by anglers fishing for tuna.

The sighting of the turtle was made on Friday from a boat operated by Kilda Cruises.

Leatherbacks are 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 (3-6ft) 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 June 2011, a leatherback turtle was spotted in the Minch, a stretch of water between the Western Isles and mainland Scotland

Crew members of the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust research vessel Silurian estimated it was about 1.5m (5ft) long.

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.

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