Endangered Leatherback Turtle spotted near Vancouver Island

The rare moment was captured by Jeremy Koreski and former Vancouver Canucks defenceman Willie Mitchell

Tofino photographer Jeremy Koreski and former Vancouver Canucks defenceman and co-owner of Tofino Resort and Marina, Willie Mitchell, went fishing for some tuna the other day and returned with one tell-all turtle story.

The fishing buddies and business colleagues say they spotted an endangered Leatherback Turtle near Loudon Canyon in the Barkley Sound. Koreski managed to snap a photo of the marine creature just before it dove under.

“We were probably 30 miles straight out,” said Koreski. “I didn’t realize that [the turtle] was so rare. I guess the last sighting was two years ago and then the only other sighting was two years before that.”

“I wish we had a little bit more time with the turtle. We kind of spotted it and drove up to it and it was taking a few breaths than it dove down.”

VIDEO: Ex-Canuck Willie Mitchell spots rare salmon shark

This isn’t the first time Koreski and Mitchell have experienced a rare sighting on the water. In the fall of 2017, they claim they saw a salmon shark while cruising around the Clayoquot Canyon.

A website dedicated to Leatherbacks in B.C. describes the turtles as some of the biggest reptiles in the world, and have been around since the dawn of dinosaurs.

However, there have been less than 135 Leatherbacks documented off the Coast of B.C. since the 1930s.

The giant turtles migrate all the way from Indonesia to feed on the jellyfish in North Pacific waters. They have most often been sighted between June and October when jellyfish populations are likely to be greatest.

READ: Pet tortoise returns after nine months on the lam in Ucluelet

Threats to the survival of this endangered turtle include: entanglement in fishing gear, collision with boats, and plastic pollution. In a global study of 408 Leatherback Turtles called ‘Leatherback Turtles: The menace of plastic’ by Mrosvosky, autopsy records showed more than 30 per cent had plastics in their intestines.

Sea turtles accidentally eat plastic bags because they cannot tell them apart from their jellyfish prey.

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Jeremy Koreski and Willie Mitchell spotted this Leatherback Turtle on a recent fishing trip near Tofino. (Jeremy Koreski Photo)

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