Here in the Pacific Northwest, marine wildlife and the ocean have played a major role in the region's way of life and culture for millennia. But while we cherish the beauty of our waters and its inhabitants, we don't always consider the important efforts that go on behind the scenes to keep wildlife safe and to keep their habitats in livable condition.
Disease, human impacts that lead to injuries, or disturbances that cause their mothers to abandon them are just a few of the issues that affect marine wildlife, and oftentimes these animals don't receive the help they need to survive in time. But one organization is helping to fix that in our region.
The Seahawks are proud to support SeaLife Response + Rehab + Research (SR3), a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting marine animals that are injured, stranded, or otherwise in distress; rehabilitating injured animals to give them a second chance at life; and doing crucial research to inform conservation efforts for the health of our local Southern Resident killer whales, and other cetaceans like dolphins and porpoises. Founded in 2011, SR3 is a first-of-its-kind operation, working with local tribes and other community groups to help educate the public on marine conservation and promote a healthier environment.
The vast increase in tanker and cargo ship transit along our coast and on the Salish Sea over the years poses increased risk of an oil spill to dozens of different marine wildlife species. This, combined with the fact that marine animal strandings in the Salish Sea have gone from about two animals per year in the 1970s to nearly 40 per year in the last decade, has necessitated the presence of a local facility specifically designed to evaluate and care for endangered marine wildlife in the northwest.
When SR3's marine wildlife hospital opened this spring in Des Moines, it marked the first time that several species were able to receive care right here in our own region. By rehabilitating marine animals, SR3 researchers are able to monitor the overall health of marine ecosystems and wildlife populations as a whole. A healthy population of harbor seals, for example — the most abundant marine mammal in the Salish Sea — reflects good ocean health and bodes well for human community health as well.
In addition to their response and rehabilitation work, SR3 also performs research on the health of local cetaceans to inform conservation efforts and to monitor the overall health of marine wildlife populations. In June, SR3’s Dr. Holly Fearnbach wrapped up a collaborative research project aimed at assessing the health of Sounder gray whales and documenting changes in their body condition during a feeding stopover in the Northern Puget Sound. The project used a remotely controlled drone to collect images of 14 whales between February and June, and found "consistent and dramatic improvement in body condition," as well as a documented pregnancy among the whales.
SR3 urges that if you find a seal or other marine mammal that appears to be injured or in distress, do not touch it! Marine mammals like sea lions, seals, sea otters, whales, and porpoises are protected by federal laws requiring people to stay at least 100 yards away. Instead, contact the West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network at 1-866-767-6114. For entangled whales found along the coast of Washington, Oregon or California, you can call the NOAA Fisheries Entanglement Reporting Hotline at 1-877-SOS-WHALe (1-877-767-9425). Lastly, for sea otters on the beach in Washington, contact the Washington Sea Otter Stranding Hotline at 1-877-326-8837.
To help feed and care for marine animals in rehabilitation, and to support the important work and research SR3 carries out, you can make a donation here. SR3's community ambulance will also be making an appearance at Touchdown City prior to our Thursday Night game against the Los Angeles Rams this Thursday, October 7, where fans will have a chance to see up-close and learn about the work SR3 does.
Click here to find out about other ways to support SR3, like donating supplies from their Amazon Wishlist, or joining the Wavemakers club to make monthly gift payments and receive unique benefits and opportunities.
The non-profit organization is dedicated to assisting injured or sick marine wildlife, rehabilitating them for a second chance at life, and doing research to inform conservation efforts. Learn more by looking at the photos and reading the captions below.