High Flying Seal Makes Full Recovery
Celebrating 5 Years of Airlifting More than 300 Abandoned Seal Pups to Safety
Harbour Air Seaplanes is marking its 5th year of airlifting abandoned or injured seal pups to rescue centres where they are brought back to health and then released back into the ocean.
The team at Harbour Air began partnering with the Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre in 2010 to help save abandoned or injured seal pups. Since then, 324 seals have been airlifted to the rescue centre where they receive medical care before being released back into their natural habitat.
“It’s a unique West Coast service that we bring to the coast,” said Randy Wright, Harbour Air’s Executive Vice President of Corporate Business Development. “Passengers are sometimes a bit surprised when they find out they are flying with a seal in the back of the plane. But everyone appreciates that saving seals is the right thing to do.”
When animals are found injured or abandoned along the beach, people are encouraged to call the local authorities, fisheries department or the aquarium. The aquarium will then co-ordinate a way for the seal to be dropped off at one of our Harbour Air terminals. The pup is placed in a plastic container and flown over to our downtown Vancouver terminal, where an employee from the aquarium will meet the animal on arrival and take it back to the rescue centre to be treated.
Emily Johnson, assistant manager of the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre at the Vancouver Aquarium says “Pups are relocated at specific spots throughout the coastal areas of the province based on guidelines set by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The animals, for instance, must be re-released 50 kilometres from the spot where they were rescued.”
The centre has cared for as many as 120 pups at one time, which Johnson describes as “an extraordinary amount of work.” She adds that over the last few seasons, Harbour Air has flown about 50 per cent of the pups that arrive at the centre. “They’re so generous and good to us. They make it very easy for us to fly pups from areas we wouldn’t have access to otherwise,” she says.
All of the rescued pups are given names and each year the aquarium chooses a new theme. This year’s theme…Canadian Athletes. To honour Harbour Air’s commitment to the rescue program, which is offered free of charge, the Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre has named one of the seals after one of Harbour Air’s pilots, Peter Reid. Peter is also a three time Iron Man World Champion and was inducted in 2011 into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.
Our team was invited by the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre on a private tour to see the seals and to help with the release of seal pup ‘Peter Reid’ in North Vancouver’s Cates Park. Weighing 10 kilograms, Peter was only seven days old when he was found and had a wounded hind flipper. With a lot of anticipation leading up to the big release, seal pup, ‘Peter Reid’ did not disappoint. Peter wiggled out of the crate at the first opportunity and made record time into the water.
(HA Pilot and Canadian Triathlete Peter Reid and son, Weymouth Reid visiting seal pups at the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre in Vancouver)
(Vancouver Aquarium's Emily Johnson transferring seal pup 'Peter' to the waters edge at Cates Park in North Vancouver)
“As the world’s largest seaplane airline, we are very connected to the coast and our environment,” said Wright. “That’s why we invest in the airlifting of injured baby seals. And it’s why we are also a carbon neutral airline, offsetting all our flights and operations by buying carbon offsets to protect the environment.”
More information on the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, click here.