The Vancouver Aquarium disentangled a sea lion off the coast of Vancouver Island earlier this week – but it doesn’t appear to be one they came up to rescue.
Vancouver Aquarium veterinarian Dr. Martin Haulena says that while searching for Kiyo, whose neck had been wrapped up twice by the line that is now growing into his skin, they found six sea lions that were tangled in a variety of gear. Eventually, they were able to rescue one, an adult male California sea lion.
“It was probably not Kiyo, but it certainly brings to light that there are a lot of animals on shoreline tangled,” said Haulena.
“We can do something about it but it’s tough. It’s logistically very difficult, it’s intense, there’s not a lot of people with experience.”
The sea lion had gotten plastic packing strap material stuck in its skin, and it was slowly sawing inside him.
Haulena, who also rescued two sea lions last year, says more investigation is needed into how many sea lions on the coast are tangled, and the best means of helping them.
“We’ve got more and more people, we’ve got more uses of coastal areas, and we’ve got increasing marine mammals, so I would assume these instances will go up,” he said.
There are many difficulties removing tangled material from sea lions. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans say it’s generally important to tranquillize sea lions beforehand so they don’t jump into the water, and the number of people with this expertise is limited.
“It seems like an easy thing to remove the gear, but a lot of things can happen when removing something slicing through the skin,” says Haulena.
“If you see one in distress, don’t do anything please, call us.”