Our partner rehabs and releases its first two harbour seals

November 05 2017

The seals, Higgins and Orchard, were released back into their ocean home at Head Beach in Phippsburg, Maine on Sunday, October 8.

It has been a busy few years for our partners Marine Mammals of Maine (MMoME) After the sudden closure of the University of New England’s Marine Animal Rehabilitation and Conservation Center in 2014, MMoME had nowhere to bring critical animals within the state of Maine.

Last year, MMoME opened a marine mammal triage center, the first of its kind on the East Coast.

This hospital stabilizes and treats critical seals before they make the 240-kilometer trip out of state to long-term rehabilitation centers. MMoMe’s new facility increased the success rate of rescued seals by almost 80% in 2016, which has led to their increased capacity to provide full rehabilitation for injured marine wildlife, beyond triage.

The facility has received authorization from NOAA’s Regional Marine Mammal Stranding Response Program, in accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act. World Animal Protection is providing funding and other support for the new triage center.

However, there is still a significant reduction in marine mammal rehabilitation capacity in the Northeast region.

In 2017, MMoME was granted temporary authorization by NOAA to provide long-term rehabilitation for the two released seals, Higgins and Orchard. One was rescued on July 9th from Old Orchard Beach, ME with lesions and a broken rear flipper and the other was rescued on July 11th from Higgins Beach in Scarborough, ME with a severe eye infection which ultimately caused blindness in one eye.

“We feel fortunate to have had so much public, private and volunteer support behind us since the UNE closure, which has undoubtedly led to how far we’ve come in so little time. MMoME is excited to be releasing our first rehab patients, and is committed to continuing forward, helping Maine’s marine mammals,” said Lynda Ada Doughty, Executive Director, Marine Mammals of Maine.

“We are so thrilled to have assisted with the momentous release of these two harbour seals back to the wild,” says Elizabeth Hogan, our U.S. Oceans and Wildlife Campaign Manager.  

“Marine Mammals of Maine is truly a model of what coastal rescue centers can accomplish for our ocean life. The expert staff at MMoME are on the frontline of rescuing hundreds of marine animals each year from over 2,400 miles of coastline, and the service they provide is life-saving for marine animals that need immediate care.”

MMoME is a nonprofit organization dedicated to marine mammal and sea turtle response, rescue, care, research and education. As sentinels of ocean health, marine mammals represent an important Maine resource that can garner public attention for conservation, and shed light on marine ecosystem health. MMoME’s mission also includes extensive education and outreach to Maine’s youth, coastal communities, and tourists while promoting marine conservation and inspiring marine stewardship.

The rich local habitat in Maine is home to several species of seals, sea turtles and whales.

As part of our Sea Change campaign, we work with local, national and global partners with partners and the fishing industry to remove lost or otherwise derelict fishing gear and marine litter, known as ’ghost gear’, from the world’s oceans, and to develop solutions to create safer, cleaner oceans for the marine animals that live in them through our Global Ghost Gear Initiative.

Our MMoME triage center partnership also allows for research and data collection on the specific causes of entanglement and species impacted.

Images: Harrison Kennedy for World Animal Protection. 

“We are so thrilled to have assisted with the momentous release of these two harbor seals back to the wild."

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