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Rare Sea Turtle in San Francisco Bay – Boaters Urged to Slow Down to Avoid A Deadly Collision

Berkeley Marina – The city of Berkeley Harbor Master photographed a rare sea turtle sighting during a routine patrol this morning off of the Berkeley Marina. The sea turtle appears healthy but is in danger of being struck by vessels not aware that there is an endangered marine reptile swimming inside San Francisco Bay. Marine biologists, staff, and members of the non-profit SeaTurtles.org have chartered a vessel this afternoon and hope to get a glimpse it before it leaves.

“The sea turtle let me snap a few calm shots before slowly diving down below the surface. Beautiful.”said harbormaster Dominic Moreno, who took the photographs and reported the sea turtle sighting to Dr. Chris Pincetich at SeaTurtles.org.

“If I can see it this afternoon or get better photographs from other observations I can determine if it is a threatened olive ridley or the endangered green sea turtle.” said Chris Pincetich with SeaTurtles.org. “It’s very rare to have a healthy sea turtle inside San Francisco Bay and with luck our members and friends will share in the opportunity to see it, learn more about it, and help us protect it and all endangered sea turtles in California.”

Together with the non-profit Call of the Sea, the SeaTurtles.org team will be leading an expedition this afternoon to educate passengers on board the 82-foot schooner “Seaward” all about the connection between San Francisco Bay, the National Marine Sanctuaries, and the new endangered species critical habitat for the leatherback sea turtle offshore of the San Francisco Bay. The expedition is also a sunset sail benefit for SeaTurtles.org and leaves at 4:00pm sharp from the Bay Model marina pier in Sausalito.

All vessels within the Bay are encouraged to slow down and keep on the lookout for the sea turtle, which is almost 3 feet across when breathing on the surface. Sea turtles are marine reptiles that typically keep to warm waters, but occasionally are seen as far north as Oregon when warm El Nino currents carry them beyond their typical range. An exception is the leatherback sea turtle, the largest species of all that has leathery skin and a think layer of insulating fat to keep in warm in its feeding areas offshore of California, Oregon, and Washington. The leatherback was just given the honor of being designated as the marine reptile symbol of California thanks to a bill sponsored by SeaTurtles.org and signed last month by Governor Jerry Brown.