It was another busy summer season at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, presented by Port Metro Vancouver, with more than 160 seal pups, a fur seal, a sea lion and a green sea turtle treated on site, and several entangled sea lions rescued in the field. Several of those rehab patients returned to the ocean this week, fitted with satellite tags so researchers, and the public, can follow their travels.

This morning, four rehabilitated harbour seal pups were released to the waters off Porteau Cove Provincial Park. Before their release, the animals were fitted with satellite-linked transmitters temporarily attached to their heads with animal-safe glue. 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 at vanaqua.org/tracking.

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The satellite-linked transmitters are temporarily attached to the seals’ heads with animal-safe glue.

“The satellite tags provide some terrific data for us,” said Haulena. “The information about where they go enables 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.” This year, all four pups with transmitters were rescued with their lanugo fur, sometimes considered a sign of prematurity. Determined to be more critical at the time of their rescue, the pups’ progress in the wild will be closely monitored.

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Veterinary and research personnel fit the satellite tags on the seals.

The four seals released today were:

  • Ziggy, rescued June 25 at Fanny Bay.16 kilograms when rescued; 30.75 kilograms at release.
  • Bubbles, rescued June 2 in Sechelt.6 kilograms when rescued; 30.65 kilograms at release.
  • Siberia, rescued July 1 in Comox.9 kilograms when rescued; 24.2 kilograms at release.
  • Sinbad, arrived July 13, rescued in Cowichan Bay. 7.10 kilograms when rescued;85 kilograms at release.
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Back to the ocean they go.

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A little kiss before starting their new adventure.

Also this week, Comber, the green sea turtle rescued last January from Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, was released into the warm Pacific Ocean off San Diego.

When he was found on a remote Vancouver Island Beach last winter, the sea turtle was in critical condition, suffering from hypothermia, or cold-stunning. After three months of treatment and care at Vancouver Aquarium, Comber was transported to SeaWorld San Diego to wait as the ocean warmed through the summer. Yesterday, Vancouver Aquarium vet techs Chelsea De Colle and Sion Cahoon joined the SeaWorld Animal Rescue team for the trip by boat to return him to the ocean.

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The Sea World Animal Rescue team gets Comber ready for release with his satellite tag.

“We believe he is the first sea turtle rehabilitated successfully in Canada for release, so it was an exciting day for us,” said Dr. Martin Haulena, head vet at Vancouver. The green sea turtle is designated as Endangered worldwide by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List. They are not listed under Canada’s Species at Risk Act, because Canada is outside their range.

Comber too, was fitted with a satellite-linked transmitter. Since his release Thursday morning he has continued to head south toward Mexico. His journey can also be followed at vanaqua.org/tracking.

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Vancouver Aquarium vet techs Chelsea De Colle (far left) and Sion Cahoon (right) assist with Comber’s release.

Vancouver Aquarium asks the public to report marine mammals that appear to be in distress by contacting its Marine Mammal Rescue Centre at 604 258 SEAL (7325).

 The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, presented by Port Metro Vancouver, is a hospital for sick, injured or orphaned marine mammals. The Rescue Centre rescues stranded marine mammals and rehabilitates them for release back into their natural habitat. www.vanaqua.org Donations made to the Rescue Centre directly support the veterinary team’s ability to rescue and rehabilitate distressed marine animals. You can provide your support by donating today at www.vanaqua.org/mmr.

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