MYSTIC, Conn. (May 10, 2023) – Mystic Aquarium's Animal Rescue Program has successfully rehabilitated a female gray seal found in distress on Block Island and will release her into the ocean on Tuesday, May 16, at Blue Shutters Beach in Charlestown, Rhode Island. To celebrate the seal's recovery, Mystic Aquarium is inviting Rhode Island residents to participate in a naming contest for the seal. The contest is open now, and residents of Rhode Island can vote via the Mystic Aquarium website. The winning name will be announced the evening before the release.
A rescue volunteer from Block Island reported the seal to the Animal Rescue Program on March 29. Animal Rescue Program staff found the seal lethargic, with significant hair loss, shivering, and minimally responsive. They determined she urgently needed to be transported to the Animal Rescue Clinic. Due to a limited ferry schedule, the Animal Rescue Program worked with the United States Coast Guard station in New London to transport the animal to the clinic. During the intake examination, the seal was determined to be malnourished, dehydrated, and suffering from an infection.
"Due to her condition on the beach where she was stranded, we believed this animal needed medical attention immediately. Her admit examination confirmed she needed urgent care. We are grateful for the help from our local Coast Guard to assist with the transport," said Sarah Callan, Animal Rescue Program manager. "Getting her assessed and beginning treatment so quickly allowed us to give her another chance at life. This was a case where every minute mattered! We are happy to report that after receiving care in the clinic, she has recovered well and is ready for release!"
This latest rescue and rehabilitation of the seal from Block Island parallels the Rhode Island legislature considering passage of HB6359, The Rhode Island Marine Mammal Stranding and Response Act. The purpose of HB6359 is to support the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of marine mammals in Rhode Island and is intended to supplement funding from federal programs to ensure that rescue and rehabilitation centers can respond to the increased number of strandings in the state.
Mystic Aquarium's Animal Rescue Program responds to calls of stranded marine mammals and sea turtles over 1,000 miles of coastline in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Fisher's Island, New York. Each year, the program handles hundreds of calls. Although located in Connecticut, most calls to the hotline are for animals reported in Rhode Island. Mystic Aquarium's Animal Rescue team is also the only one responding to Rhode Island strandings.
The number of calls and strandings is increasing, with Rhode Island seeing a 47% increase in annual marine mammal reports along the shoreline since 2018. Mystic Aquarium also responds to reports of deceased marine mammals, including whales like the endangered right whale, as the Aquarium is the only regional organization qualified to respond to such calls. Mystic Aquarium collects valuable data from each animal to which it responds, both living and deceased. The information provides insights into the health of marine mammal and sea turtle populations and local marine ecosystems.
"With the increasing number of marine mammal reports in Rhode Island, it's more important than ever that we have strong policies in place to support the field response and rehabilitation efforts of these animals," said Meagan Seacor, Vice President of External Relations for Mystic Aquarium. "We're proud to be part of the effort to protect marine mammals in our region. We hope the Rhode Island legislature will pass HB6359 to ensure that we can continue providing the best possible care to these animals while collecting valuable data."
Additionally, Mystic Aquarium hosts and executes beach clean ups and habitat restoration activities that occur in Rhode Island, and 137 (of 309) volunteer First Responders reside in state. Furthermore, Mystic Aquarium engages Rhode Island youths and students in education, conservation, and outreach activities, including communities that have traditionally been underserved. Mystic Aquarium supports over twenty after school and summer learning programs in Rhode Island.