A harbour seal pup that almost lost its life after getting trapped in marine debris has been released back into the wild this morning.
The seal pup “Maëlle Ricker,” named in honour of the Canadian snowboarder, was found on Vancouver Island in mid-December with nylon fishing netting embedded in her neck.
The pup was severely malnourished, only weighing half of its normal weight and had netting cutting about an inch deep into her neck.
Manager of the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, Lindsaye Akhurst, says the pup was in quite a bit of pain initially and had to be given antibiotics, but after spending three months in rehabilitation at the centre, she was ready to be re-introduced into the ocean.
This morning, Olympian gold medalist Maëlle Ricker released her furry namesake back into the waters of Burrard Inlet at Cates Park in North Vancouver.
The aquarium rehabilitates hundreds of seal pups every year. Maelle is the 144th seal pup brought into the centre this year.
Marine debris a growing threat
Akhurst says they normally don’t see a lot of seals with any sort of marine debris around their necks. However, increasingly, human debris in the ocean is becoming a serious threat for the well-being of marine animals.
Kate Le Souef, who manages more than 2,000 marine debris cleanups every year, says they regularly find items on B.C.’s shorelines that can potentially entangle animals like Maelle.
“She is one of the lucky ones because she was rescued,” says Le Souef. “But there are plenty of animals out there that are impacted by human litter every single day.”
The aquarium is encouraging Canadians to join the shore cleanup effort by signing up for the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup.
Le Souef says there are cleanups being organized any time of year, all across the country.
Last year, 60,000 people participated in more than 2,000 shore cleanups.