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Scientist wants all B.C. sea turtle sightings reported

Sea turtle cases 'significant'

Scientists have not had any other reported sightings of sea turtles after two were spotted off Vancouver Island in recent months. 

A loggerhead sea turtle surfaced near Cape Scott and was found dead by hikers on April 5.

Back on Feb. 4, a wayward loggerhead sea turtle was found near Pedder Bay. The turtle was rescued and brought to the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Society to be cared for. 

Lisa Spaven, a scientist at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, says there have only ever been a total of three loggerhead turtle sightings in B.C. 

“Surprisingly, we’ve actually confirmed this many loggerheads,” she says.

Another cold-stunned loggerhead sea turtle was reportedly found and rescued near Oregon on March 26. 

Spaven has been tracking sightings in B.C. for many years and says there are now just over 100 sea turtle sightings in the last 20 years. 

“This is three loggerheads; that’s pretty significant in and of itself," she says. 

The North Pacific loggerhead turtle, listed as an endangered species in the U.S., originates from nesting sites in Japan and roams the ocean in currents, occasionally foraging closer to land along the U.S. coast from Oregon down to Mexico. Males never return to land after hatching and females only go to a beach at their nesting sites in Japan to lay eggs.

She notes that there have been quite a number of unidentified hard-shelled sea turtle sightings that could have been loggerheads; however, to confirm the species she would need a close-up image or have the animal be deceased. 

“Any sea turtle sighting in B.C. is important to me,” she says. “We are trying to figure out just how frequently they are here.”

She’s also interested in leatherback turtles, which are listed as a species at risk in Canada and the U.S. 

“We are tasked with figuring out what their critical habitat may be in B.C. and how we can protect that to help recover their populations,” she says. 

When asked if more turtles will be coming here, Spaven explains that it’s a difficult question to answer.

"It has to do with sea surface temperatures and currents all over the Pacific and where turtles get lost on [their] way.” 

Anyone who sees a sea turtle can report it to the marine mammal reporting line at 1-800-465-4336. 

Spaven says this year has already been interesting for sightings.

“It’s been kind of a cool year,” she says. 

With files from Darron Kloster



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