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We love sharing our stories with you, and now the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre has a new “immersive” way of doing so, with 360 video.

Vancouver Aquarium videographer Stephen Hargreaves joined our Marine Mammal Rescue Team recently, as they made a trip to Sechelt to save a young Steller sea lion from the packing band he was entangled in. He used a collection of cameras to capture a new view of the work our rescue team does. Watch the 360 video here.

This rescue took place thanks to the sharp eyes of local residents and avid boaters Warren Roy and Shannon Rogers, who spotted several animals in need of disentanglement, and reported it to the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre.

The Steller sea lion with a plastic packing strap strangling his neck.

The Steller sea lion with a plastic packing strap strangling his neck.

Lindsaye Akhurst, manager of the Rescue Centre, and Vancouver Aquarium research associate Wendy Szaniszlo did a survey of the waters around White Islet with Warren. The seasonal population of Steller sea lions is composed mostly of males who come at this time of year to feed on fish. The team identified two animals with active entanglements.

Lindsaye explains that local knowledge such as Warren’s is invaluable to the rescue team’s operation. They rely heavily on community involvement, “Locals are our eyes and ears on the water and beaches.” Warren observed these animals and their patterns for years and because of his time spent on the water he has developed a real passion for marine conservation. “Locals share with us important information that can help save the lives of these animals,” says Lindsaye.

The Rescue Centre team surveying White Islet for the entangled sea lions.

The Rescue Centre team surveying White Islet for the entangled sea lions.

Disentanglements take an extraordinary amount of time, personnel, boats, gear and drugs — although rescuing them all would be the ideal, it’s impossible to get to all of them. In this particular case since they had spotted two Stellers with entanglements and the location was close to home, the Rescue Centre team, with help from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, set out to rescue the sea lions. In another amazing show of community support for the program — Warren and Shannon’s Vancouver-based technology company, Global Relay, funded the entire cost of this rescue mission.

Dr. Martin Haulena and Lindsaye working out a plan of action for the disentanglement.

Dr. Martin Haulena and Lindsaye Akhurst working out a plan of action for the disentanglement.

After two hours scanning the waters around White Islet the rescue team led by Vancouver Aquarium’s head veterinarian Dr. Martin Haulena located one of the entangled sea lions. Dr. Haulena has developed a precise drug combination to temporarily sedate a sea lion so it may be carefully handled and disentangled. Once the sea lion had been spotted Dr. Haulena administered the anaesthetic with a dart.

“Marty’s darting was textbook — he was aiming for the shoulder and the dart hit bang on in the centre,” says Lindsaye. After about an hour of hard work the team managed to successfully disentangle the young Steller sea lion and watch it swim away free of the plastic packing strap that had been strangling its neck.

The rescue team removing the packing strap from the Steller sea lion's neck.

The Rescue Centre team removing the packing strap from the Steller sea lion’s neck.

Simple packing straps are the most common cause of entanglements but any sort of marine debris can be deadly for these curious animals. It is estimated around 400 sea lions alone are affected along our coast. In order to help prevent entanglements — “lose the loop” when you’re throwing away packing straps, ropes, wire, and plastic. You can also help to protect our waterways by registering for The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, presented by Loblaw Companies Limited.

It’s important to note that sea lions are large, wild animals and rescues should not be attempted by the public. If you see a marine mammal in distress, call Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre at 604 258 SEAL (7325). Vancouver Aquarium is a self-supporting, non-profit society and does not receive ongoing funds for rescue efforts such as these. To support sea lion disentanglement efforts, please donate here.

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