The term entanglement applies when a wildlife specimen, which is not the subject of commercial fishing, becomes trapped in a fishing line or net, or when remains of these become attached to the specimen’s body. The same happens with floating refuse or plastic flotsam.
What it does to the sea lions
Entangled individuals often drown or escape with a piece of line or netting tangled around their bodies. Injuries caused by these become worse over time, especially when the sea lions become entangled in early stages of their development; as the specimens mature, the lines tighten around the bodies, cutting and strangling, causing permanent pain and, in some cases, leading to an early death.
What actions are being taken
Sea Lion Rescue program has been implemented in the Espírito Santo Archipelago National Marine Park and the Balandra Flora and Fauna Protected Area, both in the Mexican State of Baja California Sur, where the situation is mitigated through a remote sedation technique whereupon the specimens are freed from entanglement caused by fishing nets, lines or marine refuse, and released back into the wild.
Sea Lion Rescue is a program which in which we work hand in hand with Mexican authorities, specifically CONANP, PROFEPA, SEMAR and SCT, in collaboration with The Marine mammal Center and with organized citizen groups.
Our very first training course to the authorities was held in the City of La Paz on November of 2015, teaching techniques for disentangling sea lions using a new technique which facilitates the capture and rescue of these animals.
This technique employs a dart rifle, which administers a combination of medication and sedatives that allow the sea lion to float and breathe as it sleeps on the surface, which makes it easier to safely capture and be rescued from entanglement.
Remote sedation technique
This technique consists in applying a combination of sedatives and medication administered through a dart rifle. This combination has the advantage of allowing the animal to stay afloat on the water’s surface and lift its head to breathe when it so wishes. An acoustic transmitter, which has been adapted to the dart, is also employed, allowing for the quick localization and retrieval of the specimen after it has been shot. These tools allow us to safely apply sedatives
and greatly facilitate rescue maneuvers.
Once the specimen has been captured, it is transported to a nearby work station where it undergoes a medical procedure to remove any netting, fishing line or other materials with which it is entangled, and to cure its wounds. The animal is then given a complete physical checkup, tagged, measured and sampled. This stage of the procedure is done using inhaled anesthetics, which allow us to more safely conduct our work. Once we are finished, we remove the anesthetic, after which the sea lion quickly recovers and immediately returns to the sea.
Mixed Technique (capture with nets, disentanglement using inhaled anesthetics).
This technique consists of using a scoop net to capture entangled specimens. It is applied with smaller sea lions, or in cases where it is better not to use sedatives, such as with specimens which are too weak to withstand them. Once captured with scoop nets, they are transported to the work station, where they are given inhaled anesthesia in order to apply the same procedures described in the previous technique.
The downside to this technique is that it cannot be used with larger specimens, and that it depends greatly on the terrain where the specimen is located, as there are places which can prove to be inaccessible to humans. It is, regardless, the technique of choice when dealing with pups and one-year-olds, as it is preferable not to use remote sedation on the younger individuals.
How we work
We use specialized tools to provide the sea lions injured by entanglement with veterinary care.
We also work in coordination with environmental authorities in the Bay of La Paz, Baja California Sur, as well as other Protected Natural Areas in Mexico.