Berni the olive ridley sea turtle is currently recovering at the Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre. PHOTO COURTESY MARINE MAMMAL RESCUE CENTRE

VIDEO: Rare tropical sea turtle rescued on Vancouver Island

‘Berni’ the olive ridley sea turtle is recovering from cold shock at the Vancouver Aquarium

A tropical sea turtle is recovering from cold shock after it was rescued from the waters of the Alberni Inlet on Vancouver Island.

Kraig Kimoto was nearing the end of his shift at the log sort at Franklin Forest Products on Sept. 30 when he spotted something near a tugboat off the edge of the wharf. It turned out to be an olive ridley sea turtle, a species of sea turtle more commonly found off the coast of Mexico and Central America. Kimoto, a scuba diver who has spent his winters in Hawaii and Mexico, immediately knew that the turtle was far from home.

“I thought, ‘You shouldn’t be here,’” Kimoto recalled.

Kimoto ran up the ramp to grab his phone so he could take a picture, but when he returned, he realized that the turtle had “barely moved.”

“It was not in that good of shape,” he said. “It was just kind of bumping against the wharf.”

The lethargic turtle had no reaction as Kimoto and his coworkers hauled it up out of the water and onto the dock. They immediately called conservation services. Another worker, Jim Weightman, looked after the turtle until officers could pick it up, keeping it in a covered aluminum boat to regulate its temperature.

Representatives from Fisheries and Oceans Canada transported the turtle to meet members of the Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre team. The adult male sea turtle—which weighed 26.9 kg—had a body temperature of only 11 degrees Celsius, compared to its ideal body temperature of more than 20 degrees Celsius. Staff members have nicknamed the turtle “Berni” after the community where he was stranded.

Dr. Martin Haulena, head veterinarian for the Vancouver Aquarium, said that Berni appeared to be “cold-stunned.” Because sea turtles are cold-blooded, they depend entirely on their environment to control their body temperature. When that environment is too cold, sea turtles get hypothermic—also known as cold-stunning. Their hearts and respiration rates slow down, leaving them unable to swim or forage.

According to Marine Detective Jackie Hildering, a marine biologist and educator based out of Port McNeill, the olive ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) is a species that cannot cope with the temperatures of northern waters and goes into cold shock—unlike the endangered leatherback sea turtle, which makes its home in B.C. waters.

READ: Endangered Leatherback Turtle spotted near Vancouver Island

Both Hildering and Haulena have suggested that Berni’s appearance in the Alberni Inlet could be related to a marine heat wave off B.C.’s coast, similar to “The Blob” of 2014 to 2016. This warmer-than-usual area of water is located in the Pacific Ocean, just off the west coast of North America.

READ: Wedge-shaped marine heat wave blankets B.C.’s west coast, concerning scientists

Another possible reason for his appearance, said Haulena, is above-average sea temperatures, which often prompt unusual migrations.

Berni is only the fourth turtle of his species ever known to be found off the coast of B.C.

The first known sighting of the olive ridley sea turtle in B.C. waters was in 2011. The turtle was discovered at Wickaninnish Beach in the Pacific Rim National Park reserve. The turtle was “badly injured” after suffering blunt force trauma and died in the care of the Vancouver Aquarium.

READ: Another sea turtle washes up on Pacific Rim National Park Reserve beach

Berni, however, is reportedly responding well to treatment at the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre. Staff have been monitoring him closely and administering fluids to treat dehydration. Additional diagnostic testing will continue over the coming days. The plan is to gradually raise his temperature by slowly increasing the ambient temperature of the hospital.

“Berni has a long road to recovery, but he is responding to treatment,” said Lindsaye Akhurst, manager of the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre. “Once he’s stabilized, we will work closely with Canadian and U.S. authorities to get the permits that allow him to be released in warmer waters.”

Updates on Berni can be found at mmrpatients.org.



elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

Berni the olive ridley sea turtle was found in the Alberni Inlet on Sept. 30. PHOTO COURTESY BRIAN VALLEE

‘Berni’ was spotted in the Alberni Inlet on Sept. 30. PHOTO COURTESY KRAIG KIMOTO

Just Posted

Environment Canada issues gale warnings for most of Vancouver Island

Gale warnings in effect for most of Vancouver Island and west coast Mainland

Vancouver Island children’s author wins American award for The Moon Watched it All

Ladysmith’s Shelley Leedahl’s book took gold in the All Ages Picture Book category

Vancouver Island-penned musical sluggish and proud of it

VIU theatre department debuts instructor’s original new musical, ‘SlugFest’

Western Speedway racing legend ‘The Flying Plumber’ turns 98

Dave Cooper recalls car crashes, his first win, and more

Attraction in a hurry: Speed dating comes to Vancouver Island

Fresh Connections connecting adults in rapid succession

BC Ferries crew member taken to hospital after getting struck by bow doors

Two sailings between Horseshoe Bay and Departure Bay were cancelled

Greta Thunberg meets with First Nations chief in Fort McMurray

Thunberg has turned her protest against climate change into a global movement

Canucks hang on for 3-2 win over Rangers in New York

Vancouver scores three times in first period

More beef products recalled due to possible E. coli contamination

The food safety watchdog has been investigating possible E. coli 0157:H7

B.C. VIEWS: How to get the best deal on your ICBC car insurance

ICBC slowly being dragged into the 21st century

Pot legalization has gone ‘well’, but ‘yellow flags’ on vaping: task force chair

Canada legalized cannabis for non-medical use on Oct. 17, 2018,

Most Read