Fur seal and turtle found in unlikely BC waters
By Aaron Guillen, Staff Reporter
Two weeks ago, a male Guadalupe fur seal was found washed ashore on a beach along the Pacific Rim National Park on Vancouver Island. Three days later, a green sea turtle appeared on the same beach. Immediately, both animals were transported to the Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre to take some time to recover and heal.
Unsurprisingly, both sea creatures have experienced a harrowing, long journey. The fur seal, a native to the California coast and Guadalupe Islands off of Mexico, somehow found its way almost 2,300 kilometres away from its natural habitat. Meanwhile, the green sea turtle, known to live off of Hawaii or Mexico, has drifted over 2,600 kilometres from the Aloha State into uncharted and extremely cold territory.
“They’ll get caught in a warm pulse of water and then it will cool off and they’ll get shocked and they’ll come ashore,” said Department of Fisheries and Oceans marine biologist Paul Cottrell.
The starving and malnourished seal, alongside the hypothermic and shell-wounded turtle, is currently in the care of a team of veterinarians at the Rescue Centre.
The aquarium’s head veterinarian Dr. Martin Haulena told CBC that the seal’s arrival in BC waters was “extremely rare,” and noted, “We’ve never responded to one before.” Though the fragile animal is uninterested in food, it is still aware of its surroundings, for now.
According to the Huffington Post, the turtle was admitted for treatment at a temperature of 11 degrees Celsius, while the normal temperature is usually around 20 degrees.
“When they get into water that’s too cold they get hypothermia, also known as cold-stunning. Everything slows down: heart, respiration rates, they can’t swim, they can’t forage—they get weaker and weaker,” explained Haulena.
Luckily, after being rescued, the giant creature has been reacting positively to treatments. It’s expected to eventually fully recover.
Though the mystery behind the animals’ individual voyages into Canadian waters will remain a question mark in history, many marine biologists assume that El Niño played a significant role in the result of their being stranded.
“Changing water temperatures, changing currents, that’s kind of the prime suspect. It’s something we see more often during years with above-average sea temperatures,” shared Haulena.
With high hopes paired with practical outcomes, Vancouver Aquarium officials are expecting a slow recovery for the turtle, but a slimmer survival rate with the seal. With a seal and turtle already in intensive care, it’s anticipated that more aquatic animals will soon be found far away from home.