Sporadic Events

Rare Stranding of Olive Ridley Sea Turtle in Pacific Grove (2011)

Male Olive ridley sea turtle found on a Pacific Grove beach on 10/5/11. Photo by Bob Yerena, NOAA


An Olive ridley sea turtle that beached itself in Pacific Grove Wednesday afternoon is being cared for at the Monterey Bay Aquarium until it can be returned to the wild. The turtle, likely lured north by warmer-than-usual surface waters, was rescued by aquarium staff and is being kept behind the scenes in a heated holding pool. An MBNMS enforcement officer and staff were on site to observe the rescue.

Sea turtles are seen occasionally in Monterey Bay, notably Leatherback sea turtles that can withstand colder ocean temperatures. Other species also visit the bay when surface waters warm up, and this fall has been unusually warm – with surface temperatures approaching 60 degrees F. Sometimes these turtles are “cold-stunned” when warmer currents disappear, stranding the turtles in colder bay waters.

This may be the case for a 72 pound Olive ridley sea turtle, which beached itself at Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove Wednesday afternoon. Aquarium staff, led by veterinarian Dr. Mike Murray, received permission from federal wildlife authorities to capture the turtle and bring it to the aquarium for short-term care.

Dr. Mike Murray, Monterey Bay Aquarium veterinarian, examines an Olive ridley sea turtle which was stranded on a Pacific Grove beach on 10/5/11. Photo by Bob Yerena, NOAA


After the veterinary exam, the turtle was placed in a 78-degree holding tank in a behind-the-scenes holding area. The turtle will remain there until its condition stabilizes and it can either be transferred to another rescue facility or returned to the wild.

The above text was taken from a press release from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, dated October 6, 2011.

UPDATE! 10/12/11

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is still caring for an Olive ridley sea turtle that was rescued from a Pacific Grove beach on October 5, 2011. Although she has gained some weight, she is far from the typical 80-100 pounds that this species normally weighs. The Aquarium expects to nurse the turtle back to health over a period of weeks to months. Care includes a green protein shake for nutrition (administered through a feeding tube) and cleaning her wounds with an antibiotic ointment. She is being kept in a behind-the-scenes tank.

It’s still not clear why the turtle beached itself, but it is clear that it was out of it’s normal range and would not be able to survive long in relatively cold waters near and around Monterey Bay. She may have suffered a “cold-stranding,” in which a turtle will go into a stupored state because of the cold temperatures, lowering metabolism and disabling the turtle, or perhaps the turtle was following an eddy of warm water up to Monterey Bay before she became stranded.

For more information, please read an update published in the Monterey Herald on October 11, 2011.

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