An exotic sea turtle has been spotted in the waters off the Cumbrian coast
The five-foot long leatherback sea turtle was discovered by NuGen staff near St. Bees while they were carrying out environmental assessment work for the planned Moorside nuclear reactors at Sellafield.
Named Myrtle by those who found it, the leatherback is the largest species of turtle and is extremely rare in UK coastal waters.
It is more commonly found in West Africa and South American waters, but has also been spotted as far north as Norway and Alaska.
They feed on jellyfish and follow them across the world before returning to the tropics to breed.
Paula Madill, Nugen’s head of environment, said ‘The sighting of the turtle is very interesting but is unlikely to impact on the project – even so, it’s been absolutely thrilling to have seen it and to have been able to snatch a few rare photographs of the animal in open water.
‘We’ve seen many of the species we expected to find, a few we didn’t and others have been rather elusive – but this rare and beautiful creature has been a real highlight for me ad the team carrying out the assessment work.’
This isn’t the first time that rare species have been spotted in the Irish Sea.
The waters have been home to many unusual creatures of the years including an ocean sunfish and a fin whale – one of the worlds largest mammals. Smaller, minkle whales and bottlenose and common dolphins have also been found in the Irish Sea as well as porpoises.
The work carried out by Nugen is being conducted to allow a better understanding of the environment around the Moorside site and, if required, to learn how to manage the potential impact on the environment when developing the power station on land close to Sellafield