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Vancouver Aquarium rescues record-breaking number of seal pups

The rescue centre has already taken in 189 harbour seal pups

These harbour seals are just two of 189 pups staff at the Vancouver Aquarium's Marine Mammal Rescue Centre have treated so far in 2017.

Vancouver Aquarium / Contributed

These harbour seals are just two of 189 pups staff at the Vancouver Aquarium's Marine Mammal Rescue Centre have treated so far in 2017.

It’s been a record-breaking summer at the Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, with staff taking in 189 harbour seal pups so far.

At its peak, staff were admitting seven to eight new seals a day, manager Lindsaye Akhurst told Metro.

“We will get 200 harbour seals before the end of the season,” she said.

The previous all-time high at the centre was 174 harbour seals in 2005.

There is no clear indication for the increase in animals being rescued but people are likely getting better at spotting seals in distress, said Akhurst.

“There’s no specific patterns with the animals coming in – they all seem to have the usual emaciated, dehydrated symptoms,” she said.

“But one of the things we might attribute it to is maybe public awareness. People now know who to call when they see these animals.”

People who spot a stranded marine mammal are asked to not approach it and to keep pets away. They can call the rescue centre at 604-258-7325 for assistance.

Many of this year’s patients had injuries ranging from dehydration to wounds from predators. The aquarium aims to rehabilitate and release all patients back into the wild.

Staff have treated and released 38 seal pups so far this year and are currently rehabilitating another 120.

Treating so many animals helps rescue centre staff understand the threats threatening the coastal ecosystem.

“Diagnosing, treating and releasing these animals increases our understanding of the threats these species face,” said Akhurst.

“Every animal we work with can shed further insight into contaminants, biotoxins, and infectious diseases that can also affect ecosystem health.”

The rescue centre has also treated Flores, a northern fur seal; Bella Bella, a Steller sea lion pup; Senor Cinco, a blind adult California sea lion who was shot twice in the face; and Hardy, a sea otter pup.

Vancouver Aquarium staff are also sometimes called on to save animals in other provinces, including a young beluga whale in New Brunswick in June.

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