Satellite-tracked seal pup Sandy found dead, tangled in line

(January 2012 photo by Robin Lindsey)
Just in from Robin Lindsey of West Seattle-based Seal Sitters:

I am so sad to report that West Seattle’s rehabbed seal pup “Satellite” Sandy was found dead yesterday, entangled in fishing line near the Edmonds fishing pier.

This just serves to remind us of the many dangers that seal pups and other marine mammals face with fishing line, lures and nets. Pups are attracted to fishing piers and docks because those structures create a climate where tiny fish thrive – the very fish that make up a good portion of a seal pup’s diet. When fishermen dump bait at boat launches and fishing piers it only compounds the dangers for pups – and frustrations of fishermen when pups and adults steal bait from their lures. With discarded lines and lures abundant around popular fishing spots (such as Colman Pool at Lincoln Park), we can all help by picking up any debris on the beaches and in the water. The waters of Washington are littered with derelict fishing gear and nets and it is estimated a minimum of 50,000 animals die yearly.

Had Sandy not been fitted with the id and satellite tags, her death would most likely never have been reported. We are encouraging divers to document any animals they find entangled in fishing gear – do NOT try to remove the animal or the gear itself. Dead or alive, it is against Federal law to touch a marine mammal without authorization. Additionally, removing net and fishing gear is extremely dangerous. Please e-mail photos and lat/long to Seal Sitters and we will forward to the appropriate person for entry into a database. I have added some links of interest regarding marine debris and derelict fishing gear removal in my post (on Blubberblog).

It was just two months ago when Robin reported that Sandy had been released and was being tracked.

16 Replies to "Satellite-tracked seal pup Sandy found dead, tangled in line"

  • JSW April 2, 2012 (1:19 pm)

    Yes..very sad…even sadder if the tracking device attached to her contributed to the fact that she got entangled in the fishing line…

  • JanS April 2, 2012 (1:43 pm)

    people are pigs…we need to clean up our acts..collectively. This is so sad…

  • bebecat April 2, 2012 (2:04 pm)

    It is sad but possibly that device on the seal’s back could have been what got hung up. Not natural

  • pigeonmom April 2, 2012 (2:38 pm)

    This makes me furious at the fishermen who carelessly dumped that line. Furious.

    • WSB April 2, 2012 (2:42 pm)

      JSW and bebe, I asked Robin that question when she sent the report. She in turn checked with other experts on the project, and she replied to me, “It is dubious that the tag would have been the cause of entanglement because flipper tags come off very easily and sat tag really should not be a factor. We are waiting to see if the diver has any additional information and will update our blog as info breaks. Many, many animals are entangled and die each year. We are hoping as well to retrieve Sandy’s body for necropsy.”

  • Brian M. April 2, 2012 (3:12 pm)

    To the folks at Seal Sitters: My heart goes out to you guys. You put in a lot of effort to rehabilitate and release Sandy, and it must be heartbreaking to see her pass.

    While the ultimate cause was that of fishing lines, I couldn’t help but have mixed emotions when I saw that cumbersome satellite tag back in January. Common sense tells me that this tag is not natural and increases the likelihood of getting caught up in something. I realize that tags are vital to research, but I think we need to figure out less intrusive ways to track.

  • Robin April 2, 2012 (3:50 pm)

    Everyone involved in following Sandy’s success is devastated at this sad news. The “cumbersome” satellite tag is merely glued on and comes off with a minimum amount of resistance (and always when the animal does its yearly molt) – and flipper tags are often lost in the daily activity of a seal.

    I have consulted with the agencies involved in Sandy’s tagging and based on their prior experience with tagged animals, it is their firm belief that it is highly unlikely that the flipper or satellite tag contributed to the entanglement of this seal.

    Thanks, Brian, for the kind words for our volunteers.

  • K M April 2, 2012 (4:29 pm)

    Obviously very sad news that we are sorry to hear. However, I do appreciate the information on how to report an animal that is ensnared or caught in fishing line. Fishing line is dangerous to divers too and many of us try to clean it up when we can. But unfortunately fishing is part of the Puget Sound so we will continue to have to come up with practical solutions to cleaning it up.

  • ILoveWestSeattle April 2, 2012 (6:33 pm)

    This breaks my heart. Hey, pigeonmom, this is Pollywog, btw. :)

  • Mary T April 2, 2012 (7:39 pm)

    So sad. They’re all our little sea babies.

  • enviromaven April 2, 2012 (8:38 pm)

    I’m with JanS on this…it’s sickening to see what we do to other species on a daily basis.

  • Resident3 April 2, 2012 (9:21 pm)

    Poor little baby. SealSittiers- thank you for clarifying about the glued on sattelite.
    Question- if a diver saw a live animal stuck and having a hard time- and they are to leave them and contact Seal Sitters..does the animal get rescued in time to be saved?

  • pigeonmom April 3, 2012 (3:14 am)

    Pollywog! :-) *waves*

  • DTK April 3, 2012 (6:03 am)

    Only after the last tree has been cut down,
    Only after the last river has been poisoned,
    Only after the last fish has been caught,
    Only then will you find money cannot be eaten.
    ~ Cree Prophecy
    ~ Chief Seattle

  • Robin April 3, 2012 (10:39 am)

    In response to Resident3:
    It is EXTREMELY DANGEROUS to get close to fishing gear – derelict or otherwise – most especially line or nets. NW Straits informs us that a diver drowned in Puget Sound a few years ago on a sport fishing line cleanup operation. NOAA recommends that if divers encounter a dead marine mammal (especially if tagged) please take and email photos with lat/long (see blubberblog for more info later today). Do not attempt to remove or get so close that you are in danger.
    Regarding entangled live animals: Once again, we want to stress the inherent danger in trying to free an animal. Whenever possible, CALL THE STRANDING NETWORK and we will respond as soon as possible. If you insist on proceeding at your own risk, NOAA’s Good Samaritan clause will protect you from Federal prosecution (Marine Mammal Protection Act) – if you are trying to prevent the death of an animal (more info on blubberblog later today). Please note that you are NOT protected from being sued by the owner of the net or fishing gear for monetary damages to their equipment.
    Report derelict gear to NW Straits (link on blubberblog) and dead or live marine mammals to the stranding network. I will be writing a more definitive post on this for our blog later today. Fishing gear is a tremendous danger to all.
    Chief Seattle quote is all too true.

  • Cowpie April 4, 2012 (11:09 am)

    Humans suck! We are a parasite on this planet. There is no worse species than humans. Over 25 years ago my wife and I made the decision to not have children for this very reason.

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