On the 28th of October, the crew of the fishing vessel O190 Renilde experienced a shocking moment. Around 19:30 they encountered nothing less than a Leatherback turtle in their nets along the coast of Middelkerke/Ostend! The crew reacted quickly and was able to let the living animal return to the sea (see video © Kevin Van Thomme/crew O190).
The Leatherback turtle typically inhabits open and warm seas, where they mainly feed on jellyfish. They don’t easily show up In coastal areas (unless to lay eggs, but that is excluded on our beaches). Jan Haelters of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences provides interpretation: “Leatherback turtles are very rare in the Belgian part of the North Sea: until now, only three strandings (1988, 1998 and 2000) and three sightings (2018 and 2 in 2019) were recorded. Although the list only counts seven specimens, an increase is noticeable in recent years.”
Also in the Netherlands
Remarkably, some Leatherback turtles were also seen in the Netherlands recently: one roamed the Eastern Scheldt from 22 to 24 September, while one swam along the North Sea coast of Scheveningen on 7 and 11 October. Comparison of the shape and size of the scars on the heads of the two animals, and of the ‘ribs’ on their back shields, shows that in Belgium and the Eastern Scheldt different individuals were involved. The Eastern Scheldt animal was washed ashore dead on 3 November near the Danish Ballum (article tvs).