Monday, November 28, 2011

Sea turtle find in B.C. a first

Wickaninnish was a chief of the Tla-o-qui-aht people of Clayoquot Sound, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada during the opening period of European contact with the Pacific Northwest Coast cultures in the 1780s and 1790s. He is also known by various other names and spellings, including Wickaninish, Wickananish, Wikinanish, Huiquinanichi, Quiquinanis, and Hiyoua.

Wickaninnish was a rival of the Mowachaht chief Maquinna of Nootka Sound and in one account is blamed for the death of Maquinna's brother, Callicum, an event which spurred a war by the Mowachaht against the Tla-o-qui-aht.

A confrontation between Wickaninnish and Capt. Jonathan Thorn of the Tonquin led to the Tla-o-qui-aht massacre of the Tonquin's crew and the destruction of the vessel by one of the surviving crew members.

Wickaninnish's name is preserved in the name of Wickaninnish Beach in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, Wickaninnish Island, and Wickaninnish Bay, and the Wickaninnish Inn. There is a surfside hotel, restaurant, and spa on Chesterman Beach, close to Long Beach in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

From CBC News: Sea turtle find in B.C. a first:
A species of sea turtle that historically has no place in the waters of British Columbia has been found near Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

An olive ridley sea turtle washed up this week on Wickaninnish Beach in Pacific Rim National Park, far from the species' native waters along Mexico.

The turtle, which was found by a park visitor on Wednesday, was injured. It was limp and had a large crack in its shell. Vancouver Aquarium staff quickly retrieved the animal and brought it to Vancouver for care, but it died the next morning.

A necropsy revealed that the female turtle had died from blunt force trauma. It also had pieces of hard plastic in its stomach.

Staff said the plastic did not directly cause the animal’s death, but said it serves as a reminder that debris that ends up in the marine environment is a threat to sea turtles.

Biologists at the Vancouver Aquarium said it’s the first documented sighting of an olive ridley in the region, and brings the count of sea turtles found in the wild in B.C. waters to three.

The scientists are trying to figure out where in Mexico or Central America the new arrival came from.

The aquarium, which tracks B.C. sightings of a number of marine mammals and reptiles, is asking anyone who sees a sea turtle in or around B.C. coastal waters to report it through an online web form or by calling 1-866-I-SAW-ONE.

The Oliver Ridley Turle

- up to 1.0 m

- olive-grey

- smooth, heart-shaped (as wide as it is long)
- scute behind the head is square
- shell is very domed
- has many more scutes along the length of the shell than green or loggerhead turtles.

Surface behaviour
- surfaces to breathe for a few minutes
- holds head above water, then slowly sinks back down

Group size / social behaviour
- solitary

Other characteristics
- smallest of the sea turtles

Can be confused with
- loggerhead sea turtle
- green sea turtle


Olive ridley sea turtles are the smallest of the sea turtles. They are widespread in tropical waters in many parts of the world. In the Pacific Ocean, they are commonly found around Mexico and Central America; however many have been known to migrate as far south as Peru.

Olive ridley sea turtles are strong divers, and have been known to dive up to 150 m in search of crabs, sea urchins and other bottom-dwelling creatures. They also roam widely in the open ocean in search of sea jellies.

Like all sea turtles, olive ridley sea turtles are threatened by habitat destruction, pollution, poaching and harvesting at their breeding beaches, disease, and mortality in fishing gear.

Although olive ridley sea turtles have never been seen in British Columbia, there have been occasional sightings of olive ridley sea turtles in Oregon and Washington waters in recent years. As our oceans change, we might expect to start seeing loggerheads on Canada’s Pacific coast.


The olive ridley sea turtle is designated asVulnerable worldwide by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List. The IUCN has posted the following assessment of olive ridley sea turtles.

Olive Ridley

Olive Ridley


Cheng, I.-J. and Chen, T.-H. 1997. The incidental capture of five species of sea turtles by coastal setnet fisheries in the Eastern waters of Taiwan. Biological Conservation 82(2): 235-239

Koch, V., Nichols, W.J., Peckham, H. and de la Toba, V. 2006. Estimates of sea turtle mortality from poaching and bycatch in Bahía Magdalena, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Biological Conservation 128(3): 327-334

Mascarenhas, R., Santos, R. and Zeppelini, D. 2004. Plastic debris ingestion by sea turtle in Paraíba, Brazil. Marine Pollution Bulletin 49(4): 354-355

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