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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

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

Ladysmith designer donates her time to make free face masks and gowns

Nikki MacCallum works three days a week on masks and gowns, and three days on her regular business

Nanaimo school district to develop learning plan to account for COVID-19

Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district superintendent advises parents keep kids at home

LDCU offers no interest loans for members in need

Existing members can borrow up to $5,000 interest free

Sweet treat helps make Chemainus Health Care Centre workers feel complete

Girl Guide cookies always in good taste when showing appreciation

Social media a blessing and a curse during time of crisis: B.C. communication expert

‘In moments of crisis, fear is very real and palpable,’ says SFU’s Peter Chow-White

‘We will get through this’: B.C. sees new COVID-19 death, but 57% have recovered

A total of 1,066 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus

Ongoing list of Ladysmith COVID-19 cancellations and closures

Everything in Ladysmith that has been impacted by COVID-19

Couple celebrates 61st anniversary through Vancouver Island seniors’ home window

Frank and Rena Phillips marked occasion at Nanaimo Seniors Village this week while social distancing

A look at some of the B.C. inventors creating life-saving tools in fight against COVID-19

Groups across B.C. are working together to create what they hope will help people affected by the pandemic

Association launches French-language games, online tools for families learning at home

Games, culture and vocabulary included in new virtual resources

‘There can be no ambiguity’: Travellers brought home to B.C. must self-isolate

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the mandatory isolation must be abided by

Belle from ‘Beauty and the Beast’ entertains home-bound kids in Cowichan Bay

Alora Killam, 16, played the part in musical two years ago

55+ BC Games cancelled amid COVID-19 concerns

Greater Victoria set to host 2021 event

BC Hydro offers three-month bill ‘holiday’ for those affected by COVID-19

Industrial customers can defer half of their power bills

Most Read