It was a typical fall, West Coast morning with low lying clouds and a cool, dampness in the air as we pulled into the parking lot at Porteau Cove. Yet, the day was anything other than typical for four harbour seals that were about to be released back to the wild after several months of rehabilitation at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, presented by Port Metro Vancouver.

More than 160 seals have been rescued and rehabilitated over the course of the summer and early fall. However, these most recently released seals will help contribute to future rescues through specially fitted satellite-linked transmitters that are temporarily attached to their body with animal safe glue.

Vancouver Aquarium Rescue Centre for seals

A seal makes her way to back to the ocean after several months at the Rescue Centre. Photo Credit: Leanne Scherp/Susannah Street

“This is the third year of this Vancouver Aquarium seal research project,” said Dr. Martin Haulena, Vancouver Aquarium head veterinarian. “Data collected from the satellite-linked transmitters enable us to learn more about their habitat, foraging and other behaviours. It also indicates how well the animals do after their release, and how well we’ve prepared them for life in their natural habitat.”

Each tag will stay attached to the pelage — the seal’s coat — until it moults after six to nine months. Information about the animal’s location is sent by satellite signal and displayed online, which will also be accessible to the public through the Marine Mammal Rescue tracking webpage.

Marine Mammal Rescue Centre in Vancouver

The seals appear a bit uncertain when they first enter the water. Photo Credit: Leanne Sherp/Susannah Street.

A couple of lucky bystanders assisted with the release and watched the seals as they began on their long journey ahead. A few of the seals were reluctant to go and had to be gently encouraged to head for the water. Once in the water, the seals congregated together for a short while; their small heads could be seen poking out of the water with their special “hats” on.

Five seals were also fitted with transmitters in 2013. The longest lasting of the devices, on the seal Polaris, stopped transmitting a signal in September. “Tracking them helps us understand the factors that affect the survival of rescued, rehabilitated and released animals,” says Dr. Haulena. “It helps us determine ideal release locations and continue to improve our rehabilitation practices while they are in our care.”

Seal release in Porteau Cove, Vancouver Aquarium

Seal heads bob in the water easily spotted by their tracking devices. Photo Credit: Leanne Scherp/Susannah Street.

If you see a marine mammal in distress, stay a safe distance back and call the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre at 604 258 SEAL (7325).

Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, presented by Port Metro Vancouver and supported by Teekay Shipping, is a non- profit hospital for sick, injured or orphaned marine mammals. You can make a difference to a rescued seal pup by donating today.

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5 Responses

  1. Jessica

    Hello I was just wondering if PV1288 has a tracker on her. I would love to see where all she has gone. It has been 3 years since I saved her with my best friend down at hot rocks in Maple Ridge.

    • Vancouver Aquarium

      Hi Jessica, thank you for supporting our Rescue Centre and assisting with a seal pup rescue! Unfortunately PV1288 did not have a tracker on her. Most trackers are expected to fall off between three to six months after release as the seals naturally moult.

  2. kathy

    sooooooo happy for these seals to be able to swim freely. Thank you MMR for such a successful rehab record of releases this year. We ( the public) have so much gratitude for your efforts( particularly on this american thanksgiving day)!

  3. Jill

    Can you please let us know if a seal that we found for rescue (PV14125) was one of these released, and if there is a way to track by name/number on your site? The kids are most interested as they have a connection to this pup. Thanks.

    • Vancouver Aquarium

      Hi Jill,

      Yes PV14125 (Tellurium) has been successful rehabiliated and released, but was not one of the seals that was given a tracker. Thank you for helping with Tellurium’s rescue, one of over 160 seal pups so far this year!


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