Rare endangered leatherback sea turtles spotted off P.E.I. – Prince Edward Island

It was a sight lobster and tuna fisherman Lorne Bonnell had never seen before — in mid-August, the North Lake fisherman spotted more than a dozen leatherback sea turtles in the water about 10 kilometres off the coast of P.E.I. 

The endangered turtles are known to migrate to the waters of the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Northumberland Strait at this time of year to feed on jellyfish, according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. 

‘We were super excited about them.’
— Kathleen Martin, Canadian Sea Turtle Network

Bonnell said at first, it looked like seal heads popping up.

“As we got closer we noticed they weren’t seals, they were turtles!” he said. 

He quietly glided his boat beside the group, noticing the largest one — about the size of a picnic table, he said — munching on a large jellyfish. He grabbed his phone and began snapping pictures. He has never seen a leatherback before.

‘They were amazing,’ says Lorne Bonnell of seeing his first leatherback sea turtles, in the waters off P.E.I. (Lorne Bonnell )

“They were massive! They were way bigger than I ever expected,” he said. 

The turtles weren’t thrilled about being so close to the boat, Bonnell noted, and dove down, moving away. 

“It was overwhelming — they were amazing.”

‘Amazing photographs’

The Canadian Sea Turtle Network is excited about Bonnell’s sighting, too.

The Halifax-based non-profit research and conservation group has posted information in every port in the Atlantic region asking the public to report sightings, which is what Bonnell did. 

The Canadian Sea Turtle Network based in Halifax works to conserve sea turtles and educate the public about the endangered leatherbacks. (Canadian Sea Turtle Network )

“They’re amazing photographs — they’re some of the most wonderful photographs of turtles feeding on jellyfish that we’ve seen,” said the network’s executive director, Kathleen Martin. 

Bonnell was “extremely lucky” to see so…

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