On a wet and windy day in January, a team of scientists from the Seattle Aquarium and the Oregon Coast Aquarium were on a research excursion to observe sea otters on a remote beach in Sand Point, Washington. However, what was supposed to be a routine trip turned into a life-saving experience for a young fur seal pup.
The four women, who are all marine mammal biologists, heard a cry of distress and discovered a young northern fur seal pup entangled with material wrapped tightly around its neck. With only one bar of service on her phone, Seattle Aquarium Senior Conservation Research Manager Dr. Shawn Larson managed to complete the call to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network and was given authorization to disentangle the pup. Using scissors from her first aid kit, Dr. Larson swiftly cut the material, freeing the pup, who quickly made its way back to the water.
The successful rescue of the northern fur seal pup was due to the expertise and quick thinking of the four women, who have specific experience handling and rehabilitating entangled fur seals. The northern fur seal, listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, would have likely died without their intervention.
This exciting and heartwarming rescue serves as a reminder of the importance of protecting marine wildlife and the critical role that marine mammal biologists play in their conservation. To learn more about northern fur seals, check out the Seattle Aquarium’s webpage and visit the northern fur seals Chiidax and Flaherty at the Seattle Aquarium.