Vancouver Aquarium marine mammal rescue centre staff helped disentangle a Steller sea lion that had plastic wrapped around its neck on Monday, Sept. 16, near Sooke. (SeaDoc Society photo)

PHOTOS: Steller sea lion with plastic around neck rescued on Vancouver Island

Rescue staff determined the plastic band cut the protected animal’s neck approximately two inches

A Steller sea lion is recovering after being disentangled from a piece of plastic that cut its neck approximately two inches.

The male sea lion, weighing approximately 500 kilograms, was reported to the Vancouver Aquarium marine mammal rescue centre team after it was seen near Sooke with a plastic packing band wrapped tightly around its neck.

Rescue staff, along with officers from Fisheries and Oceans Canada and a veterinarian from the SeaDoc Society, joined forces Monday at the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve to rescue the animal, which is protected in Canada as a species of special concern under the federal Species at Risk Act.

Rescue staff joined forces with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the SeaDoc Society to disentangle the sea lion at the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve. (SeaDoc Society photo)

Since Race Rocks is made up of rough terrain and has strong currents, it took hours of jockeying positions for Martin Haulena, the head veterinarian at the aquarium, to dart and sedate the sea lion. Haulena did this from a distance using an air-powered dart containing immobilization agents.

Over the past two decades, Vancouver Aquarium head veterinarian Martin Haulena has helped develop a precise drug combination to ensure that sea lions can be safely freed, without harming itself or others. (SeaDoc Society photo)

The sea lion entered the water after being darted, which Lindsaye Akhurst, manager of the aquarium’s rescue centre said is a common response. Then, with the help of Race Rocks Eco-Guardians in the lighthouse acting as “eyes in the sky,” the team was able to spot the sea lion in some kelp and remove the plastic band that had cut into the animal’s neck approximately 2 inches.

Once the sedated sea lion was located in the water, the rescue team discovered that while the top of the plastic band was still slightly mobile, the bottom, or ventral portion, had cut into the animal’s neck approximately two inches. (SeaDoc Society photo)

A release from Ocean Wise said “the depth and severity of the wound indicated that the plastic had been there for some time.”

In between darting attempts, the Vancouver Aquarium marine mammal rescue team had to pause rescue efforts due to the presence of Southern resident killer whales from J and K pods. (SeaDoc Society photo)

Team members tagged the sea lion’s flippers so if there are further reports about it rescuers will be able to identify the animal.

READ MORE: Entangled humpback calf rescued off west coast of Vancouver Island

To date, rescue centre staff have rescued over 20 entangled sea lions.

B.C. surveys have documented hundreds more entangled sea lions in recent years, the release said, with some of the worst plastic offenders being ghost gear, including nets and ropes, and discarded trash such as the plastic packing bands used in packaging and shipping, which ensnare animals.

Not only are plastic items uncomfortable for marine mammals, Akhurst said, but the sea lions continue to grow while the plastic around them does not, which sometimes results in death.

READ MORE: Brand new vessel for Massett Marine Rescue

Akhurst said Ocean Wise is working with the Fisheries and Oceans Canada on a stronger disentanglement program that specifically targets pinnipeds, a group that includes seals, sea lions, and walruses.

In late fall, a multi-day outing is planned that will focus on this problem on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

READ MORE: Sea lion tangled in rope on Vancouver Island

If you see a marine mammal that you believe is in distress, stay back, keep people and pets away, and call the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre at 604-258-SEAL (7325), or the Fisheries and Oceans Canada hotline at 1-800-465-4336.



karissa.gall@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

CACWL celebrating 50 years serving the community with the Romeros

The Community Arts Council of Williams Lake will be organizing a concert and workshop on Nov. 30

Higher-volume woodlot licence allocated to First Nations in new Quesnel timber sharing agreement

The new apportionment gives area First Nations more say and paves the way for a new community forest

Cataline Christmas Craft Fair raising money for playground equipment

This year with craft fair season well underway, the lakecity is invited to support students

Charitable donations help Cariboo Memorial Hospital

Karl and Reta Seibert make generous annual donation

Falcons junior, Grade 8 girls volleyball teams see success on court at district championships

Hurley said right from the start of the season commitment from players at the school was apparent

VIDEO: Canadian allergists’ group wants Benadryl behind the counter due to side effects

Some doctors say the medication is over-used because of its easy availability

Yelling at your dog might hurt its long-term mental health: study

Researchers find dogs trained using negative reinforcement are more ‘pessimistic’

Vancouver Island soap company releases Lucky Lager beer soap

Beer-infused olive oil soap comes out just in time for holiday shopping

Jagmeet Singh says he’ll vote against throne speech if NDP requests not met

Singh is to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday

Community uses loophole to paint 16 rainbow crosswalks after B.C. council says no

So far 11 rainbows are painted and five planned, all since council denied the first proposal in September

Workers’ camp at LNG facility in Kitimat takes shape

Extensive worker camp now being assembled

Former B.C. youth pastor guilty on one of five sexual assault allegations

Judge cites reasonable doubt in finding Cloverdale couple not guilty of majority of charges

238 and counting: Vancouver gelato shop sets Guinness World record for most flavours

Vince Misceo has come up with 588 different flavours over the decades

Killer who fled to Taiwan day after shooting B.C. man over $80 sentenced 13 years later

The sentence comes 13 years after Shaoxin Zhang, 19, was killed in a Burnaby parking lot

Most Read