Six-month-old seal pup Maelle Ricker was rescued near Parksville and airlifted to Vancouver Aquarium Maine Mammal Rescue Centre earlier this month.

Seal pup caught in a net near Parksville

The six-month-old is now recovering at Vancouver Aquarium

A six-month-old seal pup airlifted from Parksville to Vancouver earlier this month provides a stark reminder of the impact of carelessly discarded trash.

The female pup was found tangled up in a fishing net that was cutting into her neck.

Vancouver Aquarium head veterinarian Martin Haulena said she was “quite underweight” when she was rescued Dec. 16.

“It’s always hard to see these kinds of injuries because they’re entirely preventable,” said Haulena.

He said the Vancouver Aquarium is caring for the pup until she reaches a healthy weight and can be released back into her natural habitat.

The pup was first sighted by a passerby

Dec. 11 tangled up in fishing net off Blueback Beach in Nanoose Bay. However, she swam away before anybody could help untangle the netting. She turned up again five days later near Parksville. This time, people were able to rescue her.

Norm Snihur, a volunteer wildlife rescue pilot, attempted to transport the pup to Vancouver Aquarium Maine Mammal Rescue Centre but was grounded by bad weather. Snihur took the pup home and carefully removed the netting and the next day she was airlifted by Harbour Air to Vancouver for rehabilitation.

According to Vancouver Aquarium manager Lindsaye Akhurst, the pup is on antibiotics and recovering well.

The aquarium’s rescue centre has a “naming theme” which is athletes.

In line with the theme, the seal pup has been named Maelle Ricker after the local snowboarder who was the first Canadian woman to win Olympic gold on home soil at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Maelle, the seal pup, is likely the last patient of the 2015 year at the rescue centre, a hospital for sick and injured or orphaned marine mammals.

This year, the rescue centre treated 144 seal pups and one sea otter and disentangled several sea lions caught in discarded fishing gear.

According to the Vancouver Aquarium, marine debris entanglement is a growing problem worldwide. Seals and sea lions are most at risk because of their curious nature, foraging behaviour and where they travel.

The Vancouver Aquarium is a self supporting, non-profit society that does not receive ongoing funds to provide for its rescued and rehabilitated animals. To make a contribution to help Maelle the seal pup visit http://support.vanaqua.org/injuredseal.

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