Examining a leatherback

Adam Randell
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Sea turtle found dead on the Northern Peninsula

A leatherback sea turtle that perished on the shores of Cape Onion, on the northern tip of the island, caught the attention of locals and tourists over the weekend.

It wasn’t long after its discovery the non-profit group Whale Release and Strandings Newfoundland and  Labrador, was contacted.

While the animal was discovered dead, Wayne Ledwell, with the group, saw valuable research in the carcass.

Arriving Tuesday morning, he determined the turtle to be female, 6.5 feet long, and weighing between 600-700 pounds.

Resident Jim Bessey also discovered a tracking tag attached. Which states the turtle had been in Trinidad at some point in its life.

As for finding them in our waters, Ledwell says it’s no big surprise.

“It’s not uncommon to find sea turtles in Newfoundland and Labrador waters. We’ve had them documented as far north as Nain,” he said. “But because they spend the majority of their life in the water they seem rare for here.

“But talk to the fishermen and they’ve seen them around.”

By his estimate, Ledwell said this medium size leatherback is one of approximately 600 that visit this province’s waters between mid to late summer.

After taking its dimensions, Ledwell went on to dissect the reptile, taking samples of muscle, blubber, skin, and checking its stomach contents.

What he found was various pieces of plastic.

He said the turtles eat plastic mistaking it for jellyfish. This can cause problems with their digestive track and even lead to starvation.

While he couldn’t say with certainty that the plastic found caused the leatherback's death, Ledwell firmly believes it may have been a contributing factor.

Geographic location: Cape Onion, Trinidad, Newfoundland and Labrador

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