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

Wells Guarantees Winter celebration continues this weekend

Cedar swag workshop, hot drinks, lunch and dinner specials and movie showing are part of the event

CN Rail unionized workers currently on strike

Workers have been without a contract since July 23

Wells artist wins international screen printing award

Bill Horne has won an award of excellence at the Tokyo Screen Print Biennale

Report ranks Quesnel as B.C.’s most dangerous city

In the Maclean’s magazine report, communities were ranked based on Crime Severity Index

‘It still kind of feels like a dream,’ Cariboo doctor gets top marks in Canada

Dr. Ghaida Radhi and her family moved to Williams Lake from Bahrain

‘I was bawling’: Injured Bronco’s mother stunned by his progress after surgery

Ryan Straschnitzki isn’t expecting a cure but hopes to restore some muscle movement

Smudging in B.C. classroom did not affect Christian family’s faith, says school district lawyer

Lawyers make closing arguments in a Port Alberni case about the Indigenous cultural practice

Canadian Forces member charged with possessing magic mushrooms in Comox

Master Cpl. Joshua Alexander, with the 407 Maritime Patrol Squadron, facing two drug related charges

Most B.C. residents, including those hit by 2018 storms, not prepared for outages: report

Create an emergency kit, BC Hydro says, and report all outages or downed lines

Study finds microplastics in all remote Arctic beluga whales tested

Lead author Rhiannon Moore says she wasn’t expecting to see so many microplastics so far north

Services needed in B.C. for early-onset Alzheimer’s disease patients: doctor, advocates

More patients are being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at an earlier age

65-million-year-old triceratops fossil arrives in Victoria

Dino Lab Inc. is excavating the fossilized remains of a Triceratops prosus

B.C. widow sues health authority after ‘untreatable’ superbug killed husband

New Public Agency Health report puts Canadian death toll at 5,400 in 2018

Changes to B.C. building code address secondary suites, energy efficiency

Housing Minister Selina Robinson says the changes will help create more affordable housing

Most Read