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.

49.02723, -125.6838Wickaninnish Beach

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.


A deep puncture in the olive ridley turtle's shell likely led to its death. (CBC)

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.

With files from the CBC's Chad Pawson