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)

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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The new council for Hupacasath First Nation. From left to right: Councillor Ricky-Lee Watts, Chief Councillor Brandy Lauder, Councillor Jolleen Dick and Councillor Warren Lauder. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Hupacasath First Nation chooses new chief councillor, council

First change of leadership in a decade for Vancouver Island nation

A trailer with fire damage is taped off by the Port Alberni Fire Department at the Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Fire knocked down at Wintergreen Apartments trailer

City is concerned about zoning, building code and fire code infractions surrounding the trailers

File photo of Gord Johns during World Oceans Day.
Courtenay-Alberni MP outlines priorities for federal budget

Universal pharmacare, affordable housing and Pacific wild salmon are some of the… Continue reading

Alberni Valley Bulldogs forward Lukas Jirousek pokes the puck away from Grizzlies forward Henri Schreifels during a game at the Alberni Valley Multiplex on Sunday, April 11, 2021. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
BCHL: Career night for Castagna can’t lift Alberni Valley Bulldogs past Victoria

Back-and-forth affair between Bulldogs and Grizzlies ends 7-5 for visiting team

Logging Camp Nine on Great Central Lake overlooks a large forest fire across the lake in this historical photo from May 1943. Camp Nine was bustling, with residences for logging camp staff, a rail line and rail cars visible. This is one of 24,000 photos contained in the Alberni Valley Museum’s digital archives, available for public viewing at https://portalberni.pastperfectonline.com. (PHOTO PN12220 COURTESY ALBERNI VALLEY MUSEUM)
LOOK BACK: Great Central Lake’s sawmill

Take a peek at Alberni Valley history with the Alberni Vally Museum

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

Dr. E. Kwok administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Most Canadians plan to get COVID-19 vaccine, but safety fears drive hesitancy: poll

This comes as confidence in governments is plummeting in provinces being hit hardest by the pandemic

Marathon of Hope runner Terry Fox is shown in a 1981. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/CP)
Terry Fox’s legacy of resilience resonates during COVID-19 crisis, says brother

Fred Fox said his brother’s legacy of resilience has taken on renewed resonance as COVID-19 rages on

A youth was arrested following a car crash on Wallace Street on Saturday, April 10. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Onlookers laugh and jeer as B.C. teen beaten, then forced to strip and walk home

Police arrest older teen, call video shared on social media ‘disturbing’

A lady wears a sticker given out after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count slows after last week’s peak

3,219 new cases since Friday, 18 additional deaths

North Cowichan councillor Tek Manhas did not violate the municipality’s code of conduct by posting a sexist meme on Facebook, council concludes. (File photo)
B.C. municipality to take no action against councillor who posted sexist meme

Tek Manhas’s meme doesn’t violate North Cowichan council’s code of conduct, municipality concludes

A 41-person air task force, including 12 members from 407 Long Range Patrol Squadron at 19 Wing Comox, seized more than $3 million CND worth of cocaine as part of Op Caribbe. Photo by Canadian Armed Forces Operations/Facebook
Vancouver Island team helps make $368 million three-tonne cocaine seizure

12 members from 19 Wing Comox involved in Op Caribbe

Killer whales surface near Sebastion Beach in Lantzville on Sunday, April 11. (Photos courtesy Ella Smiley)
Chainsaw and friends near the beach thrill orca watchers in Lantzville

Jagged-finned orca named Chainsaw and 17 others spent hours off Sebastion Beach this weekend

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read