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Hypothermic sea turtle Moira recovers after rare B.C. rescue

Moira the loggerhead sea turtle is responding well after being discovered a long way from home.

A hypothermic sea turtle that was rescued in B.C. is recovering and doing well. 

Moira, a wayward loggerhead sea turtle, was found by fishermen in bull kelp at Pedder Bay near Metchosin on Feb. 3.

Her visit is an incredibly rare find in British Columbia waters, according to Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Moira is only the second confirmed sighting of a loggerhead on B.C.’s coast — and the first ever to be taken into care.

Local fishermen Sean Hutchinson and his father were picking up debris in the water at Pedder Bay when they saw Moira. Together, with the help of marine zoologist Anna Hall, they took the sea turtle on a BC Ferries vessel and handed her over to staff at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Society.

When Moira first arrived in their care, she was very weak and inactive. The team worked to slowly increase her temperature by a degree per day from 8.4 C to 20 C. 

Aquarium spokesman Todd Hauptman said on Tuesday that her temperature is now in the normal range.

"While her road to recovery is long, she is responding well,” he says. 

After the initial stabilization, Moira was transferred to the Vancouver Aquarium for ongoing rehabilitation. 

"The decision was made to move her as the facilities at the Vancouver Aquarium are better equipped to manage Moira’s ongoing temperature requirements,” says Hauptman. 

Moira is not on display for the public and she will continue to remain in the care of staff. 

"The goal is to get her healthy enough to send her to San Diego to finish her rehabilitation and be released into warmer waters,” Hauptman tells Glacier Media via email. 

The exact timing of her transfer is not yet known and will also depend on permits. 

The only other confirmed sighting of a loggerhead sea turtle in B.C. waters was in 2015, about 80 kilometres offshore from Tofino, when crew aboard the Canadian Coast Guard Ship John P. Tully spotted one near the ship.

Moira likely came to B.C. after getting caught in a warm current, but it is not clear. She travelled about 500 nautical miles from a loggerhead's northernmost range in the Pacific Ocean. 

The North Pacific loggerhead turtle population, currently 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.

Hauptman says the work to get Moira healthy would not have been possible without volunteers, donors and partners. 

With files from Darron Kloster