A sea lion that was spotted at Race Rocks Ecological Reserve entangled in a plastic band was rescued through a combined operation, according to a post on the Race Rocks website.
The Reserve says that non-profit organization Marine Mammal Rescue (MMR), Canada’s only facility dedicated to rescuing ocean and marine mammals, assisted the sea lion.
Dr. Martin Haulena, Head Veterinarian and Director of Animal Health at MMR, personally participated in the rescue.
“A young adult California sea lion was reported by the eco-guardians on Race Rocks,” said Haulena in a phone call with Victoria Buzz.
“They have been invaluable in notifying us about injured marine life.”
The MMR staff were supported by vessels and staff from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).
“DFO was amazing and gave us two boats and officers to assist us,” said Haulena.
Together the group was able to successfully dart the sea lion with a tranquilizer injection.
“It was a textbook disentanglement. We got into a really great position sneaking up over some rocks and got a great shot. The sea lion went down and did not go into the water.”
Haulena says that the sea lion was caught in a heat-sealed plastic strap, common for industrial packing on items such as Amazon boxes. He suspects this particular strap was used on fish bait boxes.
“Most animals eventually die from this, so it was great to get to him,” Haulena said. “It was about an hour and twenty minutes all told, from our departure at Pedder Bay marina.”
He urged people who order large packages with plastic straps to cut them before disposal, and to try to limit their consumption of online goods and delivery.
After removing the band Haulena and other MMR staff gave the sea lion tracking tags on his front flippers, and took a blood sample.
Staff then injected the sea lion with a reversal drug to wake him up and departed.
The sea lion awoke a short time later and appeared in good health as he left the reserve.
Haulena says that while he is happy with the quick rescue, the MMR is struggling financially as they rely on revenue from the Vancouver Aquarium for their operations.
“The aquarium shut down to the public,” Haulena said. “Our rescue centre will be looking for independent funding to go on…We need to get creative.”
In the meantime, those who wish to donate in support of MMR’s operations can do so online at rescue.ocean.org/donate.