Coastal Job: Sea Lion Entanglement Expert

A day in the life of a conservationist who dis-entangles sea lions from marine debris.

Marine biologist Wendy Szaniszlo studies sea lions on the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, and has helped rescue more than a dozen from the deadly grip of fishing gear and garbage.

I’ve been doing sea lion surveys for 15 years on the west coast of Vancouver Island and over the years have seen many, many entangled sea lions. I became so frustrated that I worked with the vet at the Vancouver Aquarium to create a program for disentangling sea lions in the wild.

Our very first rescue attempt was in October 2013; we visited two haulouts and found 11 entangled animals—both Steller and California sea lions. That was by far the most entanglements I’ve seen in one day. We selected animals that needed help the most, factoring in their position, as well as their location on the haulout, and whether the animals might go into the water once darted. It takes 12 minutes for the drug to take effect, which feels like 12 hours. If a sedated animal goes into the water, we try to raft up beside it, cut the entanglement material, and then administer a drug to reverse the sedative.

Read Full Story: Hakai Magazine/Shanna Baker

Photo: Peter Lloyd/Unsplash

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