News / Vancouver

Sea lion rescue saves animals from entanglement

A Vancouver veterinarian helped free two sea lions entangled in tight packing straps

This sea lion's lacerations on its neck are from a packing strap, used in shipping, that had wrapped itself around the animal's neck.

Vancouver Aquarium/Contributed

This sea lion's lacerations on its neck are from a packing strap, used in shipping, that had wrapped itself around the animal's neck.

A Vancouver veterinarian helped Washington officials rescue two sea lions who were entangled in packing straps earlier this month. 

Sea lions, like whales and other marine mammals can suffer serious injuries or death if they get tangled in fishing or shipping gear.

The rescue consists of sedating the animal with a tranquilizer dart, cutting the gear to free them, then reversing the aesthetic.

“These rescue efforts involving sea lions are extremely challenging and can be dangerous,” said Martin Haulena, head veterinarian at Vancouver Aquarium.

“Success depends on upon ideal weather and ocean conditions and requires specialized equipment and a skilled team.”

A team of veterinarians dart the sea lion first before moving in to cut the strap and free the animal.

Vancouver Aquarium/Contributed

A team of veterinarians dart the sea lion first before moving in to cut the strap and free the animal.

Haulena joined a team of American veterinarians and researchers on Oct. 2 near Neah Bay, Washington to sedate and free a male sea lion that had become stuck in some packing straps in the water. The rescue took place on the water, with vetrinarians coming up alongside the sedated animal in a boat.

The next day a similar rescue took place on shore. The sea lion had deep lacerations around its neck from the packing strap that had become stretched over the animal.

The ultimate goal of rescues like this is to prevent future entanglements by working with shipping and packaging companies, said Joseph Gaydos, a veterinarian from UC Davis.

“Disentanglement not only improves the welfare of the animals we help, but also enables us to collect data needed to identify the main items entangling sea lions so we can help manufacturers alter their production and stop the entanglement cycle.”

People can call the Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre at 604-258-SEAL if they see a stranded marine mammal in B.C.

If people see a whale in distress they can call the Department of Fisheries and Oceans marine mammal hotline at 1-800-465-4336.

Veterinarians work to free a sea lion from entanglement in Washington.

Vancouver Aquarium/Contributed

Veterinarians work to free a sea lion from entanglement in Washington.

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