The INTERREG Irish Sea Leatherback
Sea Turtle Project
The INTERREG IIIA Irish Sea Leatherback Turtle Project was a collaboration between the University of Wales Swansea and University College Cork. Its aim was to understand the populations, origins and behaviour of leatherback turtles in the Irish Sea.
See the Final Report for more detailed information; however a brief outline of one of the major objectives of this project is below.
Satellite tracking leatherbacks
One of the main objectives of the Swansea/Cork collaboration was to satellite tag leatherbacks off the southwest coast of Ireland. The difficulty in achieving this objective can be appreciated when you consider that as few as 30 leatherbacks may be sighted in any one year throughout British & Irish waters.
However, help was at hand. The salmon fishing community of the Dingle peninsula (especially the Chorca Dhuibhne community) occasionally observe leatherbacks off mount Brandon while out fishing. More rarely one of these large turtles becomes entangled in their nets. It was exactly this situation that we required to tag a turtle, but unfortunately during both 2003 and 2004 we had no luck. Again in 2005 our efforts failed, although we did get to a turtle. However, luck was finally with us when in September 2005 a female leatherback became entangled in a lobster pot rope. Local fisherman Pádraig Frank O'Súilleabháin who we had been working with for the past three years discovered the turtle and quickly gave us a call. With the help of the Dingle Oceanworld Aquarium staff (Kevin Flannery, TJ Scanlon and Mike Lynch) the turtle was brought into the aquarium where she was successfully tagged and released. A local Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) school (Scoil Naomh Eric) christened the turtle 'Cuas' after the harbour she was found in. Amazingly we were lucky enough to follow the progress of this turtle for 1 year (see map).
Turtle tracks Complete track of female (tagged 1 September 2005) (black track with dotted sections) and male turtle (tagged 29 June 2006) (red track) satellite tracked from Dingle, Ireland. Male turtle performed deepest dive ever recorded by a reptile (1280 m) just south west of Cape Verde. All dates are dd/mm/yy.