A northern fur seal who was rescued near Hardwicke Island in January has been released back into the wild.
On Thursday, the northern fur seal, dubbed Mo, raced straight into the ocean after staff from Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre released her from her carrier.
“She was released with a satellite link transmitter. That transmitter will give us information as to where she is for the next few weeks. Even if she does get into some sort of trouble, we’re able to find her and hopefully help her out again,” Lindsaye Akhurst, manager of the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, said.
Mo was found in the waters off Hardwicke Island, part of the Discovery Islands between Vancouver Island and the mainland, by employees at a Mowi salmon farming operation. They spotted her swimming irregularly, unable to dive and floating sideways.
Mo was rescued and admitted to the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre. At the time, she was estimated to be about seven months old. She was severly underweight.
Akhurst said the centre always strives to release animals back into the wild.
“It’s a pretty great feeling to see Mo back out into the wild. She’s been with us for over six months and in that timespan has gained a lot of weight,” Akhurst said.
“As you can see with her release, she bolted right back out of that kennel and didn’t even look back to say goodbye.”
Mo will lose her tracker after she moults. Before then, centre hopes to find out whether she belongs to the northern fur seal population up in Alaska or the population from California.
Northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) are a pelagic species and don’t often venture onto land.
In the early 1900s, they were hunted for their fur and almost eradicated in the north. In 1911, they were granted international protection and the populations recovered. However, 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 six to seven per cent every year. Northern fur seals are listed as “vulnerable” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and as “threatened” by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).