(SAUSALITO, Calif. – July 21, 2017) – A California sea lion suffering from a devastating entanglement evaded marine mammal rescuers yesterday in Bodega Bay, CA. Trained responders who are part of the Special Rescue Operations team at The Marine Mammal Center made a third rescue attempt on the animal, nicknamed B-Dock, near Spud Point. The sea lion has a monofilament line wrapped around his neck, cutting into his blubber. As he grows, the line will continue to tighten, potentially causing life-threatening problems for the animal.
“Hundreds of marine mammals needlessly suffer from trash entanglements every year,” said Dr. Shawn Johnson, Director of Veterinary Science. “Through these special rescues and support from the public, we’re able to give these animals a second chance.”
Intelligent and curious, many seals and sea lions see trash as something to eat, investigate or play with—not knowing that this new “toy” could end up being fatal. In 2015, the Center rescued a California sea lion with an entanglement so severe that it had cut deeply into his neck, causing painful scarring and ripping a hole all the way through to his trachea, or windpipe. Named Thin Mint, veterinarians knew that a successful outcome for a surgery of this kind was unlikely, but partnered with a veterinary specialist to perform the delicate surgery needed to repair his trachea.
About 10 percent of the marine mammal patients that The Marine Mammal Center rescues are entangled in ocean trash. In order to help animals like B-Dock that are suffering due to the result of human impacts, experts at the Center developed an innovative darting technique that increases the effectiveness of sedation, tracking, and rescue without risking human lives in the process. The veterinary team uses a special combination of drugs that allow the animal to sleep while retaining its breathing reflex, delivered remotely via a specialized dart that also includes an acoustic tracking device.
The dart’s acoustic tracking device allows the rescue team to keep track of the animal in the water until it is fully sedated, a process that can take between 3 and 45 minutes. A series of “pings” from the device are detected via hydrophone, and the rescue team follows the sound until they are able to spot the animal.
Two previous attempts had been made to rescue the large male sea lion, estimated at about 600 pounds, at Fort Bragg’s Noyo Harbor and at Pier 39 in San Francisco in early June, but eluded responders. Rescue staff at the Center were able to confirm the reappearance of the sea lion in Bodega Bay on Wednesday. A response plan was organized, but despite hours of searching, the sea lion failed to reappear.
Thin Mint’s surgery was successful and he was released back to the wild. The Center is optimistic that B-Dock will also be successfully returned to the wild unencumbered by his entanglement. If he is sighted again, the Center will attempt another Special Rescue Operation to disentangle him.
If the public wants to help B-Dock and other entangled animals, they can support the Center’s Special Rescue Operations by visiting www.TMMC.org/Hero to provide the funding desperately needed for life-saving rescues, equipment, surgeries, medicine, training and more. For a limited time only, supporters can receive an exclusive Adopt-a-Seal available only to entanglement campaign supporters as well as other perks like invitations to an animal release or membership to the Center.
The Marine Mammal Center has been on the front lines of marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation for more than 40 years, and we have the expertise and technology needed to save these animals but can’t do it without the public. Fatal entanglement in and ingestion of marine debris by marine animals has increased by 40 percent in the last decade, according to a United Nation’s Convention on Biological Diversity report, so the public’s support is more critical than ever.
The public’s support helps The Marine Mammal Center:
- Use innovative rescue tools to capture wild, entangled animals using advanced sedation, tracking and rescue techniques.
- Perform complicated surgeries to repair injuries caused by entanglements.
- Remove abandoned gillnets from the Sea of Cortez, with the help of international partners, to save the critically endangered vaquita porpoise
- Train veterinarians and animal experts from countries developing rehabilitation and conservation programs so they can rescue entangled animals on their own coastlines.
Any time a member of the public sees a marine mammal that appears to be suffering or is in an odd location they should call The Marine Mammal Center’s 24-hour hotline at 415-289-SEAL (7325) to report the animal. Individuals should always keep themselves and their dogs a safe distance of at least 50 feet from marine mammals.
The Center’s Special Rescue Operations require a tremendous amount of resources and personnel, and yesterday’s effort was supported by partner agencies including Sonoma County Parks, the Bodega Bay Fire Department, UC Davis Bodega Bay Marine Lab, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, and California Highway Patrol.
ABOUT THE MARINE MAMMAL CENTER
At The Marine Mammal Center, we are guided and inspired by a shared vision of a healthy ocean for marine mammals and humans alike. Our mission is to advance global ocean conservation through marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation, scientific research, and education. Since 1975, the Center has been headquartered in the Marin Headlands, Sausalito, Calif., within the Golden Gate National Parks and has rescued and treated nearly 20,000 marine mammals. In 2014, the Center opened Ke Kai Ola, a hospital for the rehabilitation of the endangered Hawaiian monk seal, in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.