Wayward Sea Turtle in Delta May be in Danger

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A 3-foot long green sea turtle that was caught on cell phone video by a local delta fisherman may be in danger, according to a scientist from the Turtle Island Restoration Network, which is based in Marin County.

Ben Maloon was fishing on the San Joaquin River near Lathrop on Friday afternoon when he saw what he thought was a plastic bag. Instead it was a big green sea turtle. He put the video on YouTube.

Executive Director and founder Todd Steiner says the Eastern Pacific green turtle appeared to be in good health, but may not be for long.

“I fear for the safety and survival of this animal,” Steiner said.

The turtle is thousands of miles north of its home range in tropical waters off the central coast of Mexico. Water warmed by the El Nino effect has caused different animals to range farther north than normal.

Steiner says it’s unlikely that the turtle entered the fresh water river to feed, but instead was confused and probably looking for warmer water.

But the delta is fed by water from the Sierra, and the water will get colder as storms wash water down from the mountains.

“Green sea turtles will what’s called cold stun, basically, go into a hypothermic state, and then they can drown,” said Steiner.

Whales and sea lions have been known to swim up the delta from San Francisco Bay and draw curious spectators. But Steiner says those animals are accustomed to much colder waters.

He is hoping that people spotting the turtle will contact the Turtle Island Restoration Network online at info@seaturtles.org or at (415) 663-8590. Or Steiner says people can contact the U.S. Marine Fisheries Service so that a possible rescue can be attempted.

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