Call to Report All Sea Turtle Sightings in British Columbia

Untended fishing gear is responsible for many loggerhead deaths. The greatest threat is considered to be the loss of nesting habitat due to coastal development. Turtles may also suffocate if they are trapped in fishing trawls. Photo credit: ukanda on Wikimedia Commons

In recent months, British Columbia has witnessed rare sightings of loggerhead sea turtles—two out of three total confirmed loggerhead sightings in BC’s history occurred between February and April 2024.

Lisa Spaven, a scientist at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, is urging the public to report any further sightings. The recent spottings of loggerheads in BC were all by members of the public, including a loggerhead found deceased by hikers near Cape Scott on April 5.

Spaven, who has been monitoring sea turtle sightings in British Columbia for many years, noted that there have been over 100 sea turtle sightings in our waters in the last two decades. The rare sightings of loggerheads are significant as they are more commonly found along the US coast from Oregon down to Mexico, where they forage. The North Pacific loggerhead turtle is classified as endangered in the US and originate from nesting sites in Japan. They roam the oceans, carried by currents, and males never return to land after hatching while females only do so to lay eggs.

Moira, a loggerhead sea turtle, was spotted near Pedder Bay on February 4. She was found to be in severe hypothermic shock and was taken to the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Society for care. Photo credit: Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Society

The increase in sightings this year is intriguing to researchers, as it could help determine how frequently these turtles venture into Canadian waters. Spaven also expressed interest in leatherback turtles, another species at risk in both Canada and the US. Understanding their critical habitats in BC is essential for aiding their population recovery.

Spaven emphasized the importance of public participation in reporting sea turtle sightings. These contribute to the broader efforts of tracking and conserving these marine creatures, especially as sea surface temperatures are changing, potentially influencing where the turtles end up. Sightings of sea turtles can be reported to the marine mammal reporting line at 1-800-465-4336.

Learn more in this informative article.