A young northern fur seal excitedly toddled off a Ucluelet beach and back into the ocean on Thursday after spending the past six months rehabilitating at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre.
The seal, named Mo, did not look back as she raced back into the wild, according to a media release from Vancouver Aquarium on Friday.
Data from a satellite transmitter fitted onto the small animal’s head showed that she headed straight for the open ocean. The transmitter is expected to remain on Mo for several weeks and the release states that the public will soon be able to track Mo’s movements at https://rescue.ocean.org/map.
Mo was rescued in January when employees of a Mowi salmon farm near Hardwicke Island saw her floating sideways and unable to dive, according to the release.
She was brought to the Rescue Centre where staff determined the 7-month-old animal was dangerously underweight.
“We never know how successful each pup’s recovery will be, but our objective is always a full rehabilitation and return to the ocean,” said Rescue Centre manager Lindsaye Akhurst. “Mo is an energetic and spirited animal, which served her well as she recuperated and will help her thrive now that she’s back in the ocean.”
The Rescue Centre expressed gratitude for the Mowi employees who rescued Mo as well as to Pacific Coastal Airlines for donating flights.
“It’s always wonderful to see how much people in this province care about our marine mammals and step up to help us save them,” Akhurst said.
Northern fur seals rarely leave the ocean and are listed as “threatened” by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
They were hunted into near extinction in the early 1900s, but populations began to recover after the species was granted international protection in 1911, according to the release.
“Since the 1970s, pup production in the Bering Sea’s Pribilof Islands (their main breeding site) has slumped by about 50 per cent, and continues to drop by about 6–7 per cent every year,” it states.
Ocean Wise scientists are researching potential causes for that decline and believe killer whale predation, competition with fisheries, and climate change are key culprits.
Anyone who spots a marine mammal in distress is urged to report their sighting to the Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre at 604-258-7325 or the Fisheries and Oceans Hotline at 1-800-465-4336.
Anyone wanting to support the Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre is encouraged to visit support.vanaqua.org/seals.
READ MORE: VIDEO: Rescued eagle released in Ucluelet
READ MORE: Sea turtle rescued near Ucluelet heads home