From Oregon Coast Aquarium
If you’re out walking the beach this winter, keep an eye open for stranded sea turtles. Winter storms along the Pacific can push sea turtles northward into colder waters, where they quickly grow weak and end up stranded on Northwest beaches.
Pacific Green Sea Turtles and Olive Ridley sea turtles are the two most common species that strand on Oregon beaches – both are classified as endangered. Green and Olive Ridley turtles have extensive global ranges and breed in warm waters, including along the Pacific coast of Mexico. Most of the sea turtles recorded in Oregon likely originate from this coastal Mexico population.
“Sea turtles do not reach Oregon beaches unless injured or sick, and once stranded, they require immediate specialized care to survive,” said Jim Burke, Director of Animal Husbandry at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. “Last winter, four hypothermic (dangerously cold) turtles were recovered from Pacific Northwest beaches — a record for the region.” If ocean conditions and weather patterns continue as they have over the last couple of years, more turtles are expected to arrive along our shores.
The Oregon Coast Aquarium and Seattle Aquarium are the only rehabilitation facilities in the northwest United States authorized by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (Service) to provide the specialized care sea turtles require. These care facilities were at their maximum capacity with four turtles last year, so the Service is examining ways to increase rehabilitation capabilities should more turtles arrive.
If anyone discovers a sea turtle on the beach to immediately note its location, remain nearby to observe it, if possible, and contact the Oregon State Police Tipline at 800-452-7888 or the Marine Mammal Stranding Network (MMSN) in Oregon, Washington, and California at 1-866-767-6114. The MMSN and its partner organizations, including Seaside Aquarium, have proved extremely valuable in reaching stranded turtles quickly and transporting them to authorized care facilities.