The Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, an Ocean Wise initiative, is a hospital and care facility for sick, injured or orphaned marine mammals. Each year, our rescue program saves over 100 marine mammals and rehabilitates them for release back into their natural habitat.



Marine Mammals in Distress

If you see a marine mammal that you believe is in distress:

  1. Stay back
  2. Keep people and pets away
  3. Call the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre at 604-258-SEAL (7325)

Rescue situations, and their recommended courses of action, vary dramatically depending on the species concerned. Other critical factors are also involved, such as age, behaviour, location and apparent health. Please don't try to help an animal on your own.


Sadly, sea lions frequently become entangled in discarded packing straps, rope, string and nets. It is estimated that over 400 sea lions are affected along our coast. Our Marine Mammal Rescue team has pioneered a way to disentangle these animals. Disentanglements take an extraordinary amount of time, personnel, boats, gear and drugs.

Band Aid


The Marine Mammal Rescue Centre is a hospital for sick, injured, or orphaned marine mammals. Throughout an animal's rehabilitation, a healthy, low-stress environment is essential in order to keep them true to their "wild" nature.




Quarantine & Assessment

Each new arrival is placed under quarantine for a minimum of 14 days. The prevention of disease transmission is imperative to the success of a rescue program.

Upon arrival, each animal is given a thorough physical examination, and behaviour observation. Age is estimated using markers such as tooth size and type of fur. A blood sample is drawn and sent for laboratory analysis. Our veterinary staff use the results of all these assessments to determine a course of treatment. After the initial examination is complete, each individual animal gets a tailored treatment and feeding protocol.

Feeding & Observations

Initial feedings are usually designed to rehydrate new patients before administering feeding regimens tailored to their specific conditions. Seal pup patients are fed a specially designed formula that is high in calories and nutrients. Older animals admitted, are offered high quality fish after their initial rehydration. We carefully monitor the diet of all animals in our care.

Wild animals are adapted to avoid showing signs of weakness and disease, as this could make them more susceptible to predatory attack. Sometimes animals will exhibit very few outward signs of illness until their condition is quite progressed. Staff and volunteers are trained to perform regular daily observations.

Cleaning & Care

Cleaning the animals, facilities and equipment is an important part of the daily duties. Staff and volunteers spend a good portion of their day ensuring that all areas of the centre are spotless.

Each animal receives qualified veterinary care. After the initial assessment, animals start an individual treatment regimen specific to their needs. Throughout their stay at the rescue centre, we closely monitor their conditions, and the veterinary team performs surgeries or other procedures as needed.

View Patient List



Our primary goal is to rehabilitate marine mammals for release back into their natural habitat. Thorough medical exams help ensure that our patients have the best possible chance of long-term survival once released.


Once a marine mammal patient has been deemed healthy and competent, it's time for them to return to the wild. Release days are incredibly rewarding for the staff and volunteers who have worked hard to help a marine mammal recuperate. The animals are taken to various release sites that are carefully selected by the Marine Mammal Rescue and Rehabilitation team. Release locations are usually sheltered, calm bays or coves, where newly released animals can take some time to readjust to life in the wild.



Release Criteria

We've established criteria to ensure that any marine mammals being released into wild populations have the best possible chance of long-term survival. Marine mammal patients receive a thorough medical examination to ensure that they're clinically healthy and free from disease. They must also be at a satisfactory weight for their species. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is the authority that makes the final decision on whether an animal can be released.

Success Stories

The Vancouver Aquarium has been involved in the rescue and rehabilitation of marine mammals for over forty years. Over the years we have rescued, rehabilitated and successfully released many animals, including harbour seals, California sea lions, Steller sea lions, elephant seals, a killer whale and a harbour porpoise.

Read More

Post-Release Tracking

Before their release back into the wild some marine mammals are outfitted with satellite-linked transmitters, which will provide valuable data to our veterinary team, including the animal’s post-release travel patterns and progress. These transmitters are providing valuable data about the travel patterns and progress of these rescued animals.

View Map