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2010: The Year In Review


2010 - The Year in Review!


In 2010, the Center admitted 132 harbor seals and was able to release 73 of them back to the ocean.
© Francesca Farley



Thank you to our donors and volunteers for making 2010 such a productive year! We literally couldn't have done it without you. We look forward to your continued support in 2011! Look what you helped accomplish in 2010:


Abagnale: Entangled in Ocean Trash, Rescued by the Center, and Released Home  

This California sea lion was entangled in fishing line.
© Marie DeStefanis

Abagnale, a California sea lion, was entangled in fishing line around his neck and mouth. He was originally spotted on New Year's Day 2010, but was not rescued until January 24 at Moss Landing Harbor. In fact, it took rescuers 20 separate attempts to finally catch Abagnale. Indeed, this master of eluding rescuers was named after the 1960's con artist Frank Abagnale Jr. who was always two steps ahead of authorities. Abagnale was so difficult to capture that the rescue team had to try something never attempted before in history with wild, free-swimming marine mammals. As Abagnale's life was threatened, the team injected a mild sedative into the animal to slow him down and aid in a successful rescue. Once at the Center, veterinarians removed the fishing line that was deeply embedded around his neck and mouth. They also administered antibiotics, painkillers and additional medical care to treat Abagnale until he was well enough to return to the ocean.


Sgt. Nevis Finds a New Home at Six Flags Vallejo  

Nancy Chan - Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

On October 8, 2010, Sgt. Nevis, the California sea lion that was seriously injured when he was shot by a fisherman in the Sacramento River, had major reconstructive surgery at Six Flags in Vallejo to close the gunshot wound on his face. Washington D.C. facial reconstruction surgeon Dr. Praful Ramenini flew out to perform this delicate surgery. Dr. Ramenini was supported by Center's veterinarians Dr. Bill Van Bonn and Dr. Vanessa Fravel, as well as veterinarians Dr. Diana Procter and Dr. Nancy Anderson from Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. The complicated surgery was needed to cover the open, crater-like wound under his eyes. The extent of the gunshot injury had forced Sgt. Nevis to modify his breathing. He was unable to dive or put his head under water, and he was at risk for infection. Equally important, because it was human interference that caused the marine mammal's injury, Center and Six Flags staff felt a strong need to correct the situation as much as possible. Dr. Ramenini generously agreed to donate his services in support of this amazing effort.


The Eyes of Chai  

Chai had cataract surgery at the Center.
© The Marine Mammal Center

Elephant seal Chai underwent a very specialized surgery at the Center. It was especially poignant because "Chai" means life in Hebrew. The veterinary team successfully removed bilateral cataracts from Chai. These were congenital cataracts and the surgery was performed by Dr. Carmen Colitz, a consultant ophthalmologist specializing in marine mammals, based in Florida, and Dr. Kate Freeman, an ophthalmology resident at UC Davis and previous vet student extern at the Center. Anesthesia was one of the longest to date (3 hours!) and was complex due to the need to paralyze the eye for good access to each lens. Dr. Vanessa Fravel and technicians Michelle Blascow and Lauren Palmer did a tremendous job anesthetizing “Chai”. The patient needed about 2 weeks of post- operative medications, and then was happily returned to his ocean habitat.


San Luis Obispo Facility Gets a New Name  

The Marine Mammal Center relies heavily upon its satellite facilities and volunteers in Monterey Bay, San Luis Obispo, and Fort Bragg. 2010 saw the dedication of the San Luis Obispo satellite facility site as the Bayswater Memorial Rescue and Triage Center. This meaningful site name was chosen with care in honor of a Center donor, the late James C. Cummings, and the Burlingame street he lived on, in a home and neighborhood that was very meaningful to him.


Betty White Visits the Center  

Betty White (right) feeds a herring to a sea lion patient named Sgt. Nevis
© The Marine Mammal Center

In 2010, the Center hosted the Morris Animal Foundation, and the Foundation’s trustees and veterinary advisors. The Foundation has been a strong supporter of the Center’s research programs and is the largest private foundation to fund research into wildlife medicine and diseases. Accompanying the tour was Betty White, the Foundation’s trustee and great friend to the Center. 





The Center Launches an Audio Tour  

This visitor enjoys an audio tour of the Center.
© Francesca Farley

The Center created and launched its first ever audio tour. Now Center visitors can listen to the voices of Center staff and volunteers as they gain insight into the nature and scope of the Center's work.




 President Obama Nominates Dr. Frances Gulland to the Marine Mammal Commisssion  

Dr. Frances Gulland, Senior Scientist, The Marine Mammal Center

President Obama nominated Dr. Frances Gulland to the Marine Mammal Commission. If confirmed, Frances would become one of three commissioners serving our nation and its efforts to protect and conserve marine mammals. Frances currently serves on the committee of scientific advisors for the Commission. The Commission consists of three members who are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The Marine Mammal Protection Act requires that those serving as commissioners be knowledgeable in marine ecology and resource management.


Hawaiian Monk Seal Swim Team Raises Nearly $20,000  


A team of extremely dedicated Center volunteers and staff, along with a colleague from the California Academy of Sciences, raised nearly $20,000 in an effort to save the Hawaiian monk seals as part of the Maui Channel Swim in Hawaii. This hearty crew battled dangers such as swift currents, tiger sharks, and the Portuguese Man O' War. The swim is the longest open water relay swim in the world. The funds raised support the Center's goal of building an urgently needed hospital for Hawaiian monk seals in Kona.


Center Staff Travels Abroad to Help Marine Mammals

Dr. Nicola Pussini, a veterinary intern at the Center, traveled to the Antarctic in March of 2010 to work with leopard seals and weddell seals. His primary efforts were focused on giving the animals satellite transmitters. These devices will record and transmit data on the location of the animal, temperature of the water, salinity and depth of diving.  In addition to placing the satellite devices, the team also collected morphometric data, blubber biopsies (for contaminant assessments), whiskers (for diet analysis), and blood samples. The Antarctic team also monitors the Antarctic fur seal population, and Dr. Pussini was involved in tagging these pups and re-sighting animals.


Unusual Birth Places for CA Sea Lion Pups   


2010 saw an unusually large number of prematurely born California sea lions. Females normally give birth on remote islands, away from people.  However in 2010, pupping occurred in crowded public places such as the public boat ramp at the Coast Guard jetty/breakwater in Monterey, Pier 39 in San Francisco, and under the boardwalk in Santa Cruz. Not only are these locations bustling with people, they also are far north of normal pupping areas.

Female CSLs normally give birth in large groups (rookeries) from the California Channel Islands, south to Baja California, Mexico, during summer. They nurse their pups for several months before pups are weaned and begin to hunt for fish on their own. Pups are not normally born in Monterey Bay.

Pupping patterns similar to 2010 also were observed during 1998 and 1999, the last major El Niño years. El Niño oceanographic conditions are characterized by warmer coastal waters, which drive California sea lion prey (anchovies, sardines, etc.) greater distances from shore. Pregnant females and yearlings (1-year-olds) may not have the energy reserves to swim the extra distance to acquire food, resulting in females giving birth before reaching normal pupping areas, females abandoning pups because of diminished nutritional condition, and emaciation/starvation of yearlings. Domoic acid poisoning may also be a contributing factor in the unusual pupping patterns during 2010.  We may not know exactly what is causing the unusual CSL pupping circumstances in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary this year, but by documenting marine mammal strandings we can better track changes in the ecosystem.    


The Center and the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill  

In June of 2010, Dr. Frances Gulland travelled to New Orleans to participate with about 75 others, as part of a strategic planning session for the assessment of impacts of the oil spill on marine mammals and sea turtles. As part of their process, this working group identified the scientific information already available, and the data gaps, and developed an action plan.


Center Forges Partnership with Aquarium of the Bay

In 2010, the Center established a unique partnership with Aquarium of the Bay to train their team as docents to talk to the public about sea lions and further inspire conservation awareness in the visitors to this very popular spot.


PG&E Donates $150,000 for New Solar Installation  

With students from Willow Creek and Oakland Tech in attendance, John Simon, senior vice president of human resources, presents $150K check to Jeff Boehm, executive director at The Marine Mammal Center to build additional solar panels.
© The Marine Mammal Center

Here comes the sun! The break in the steady stream of rain in March 2010 was a welcome sight as children gathered from Willow Creek and Oakland Tech schools to celebrate PG&E’s announcement of a $150,000 donation to The Marine Mammal Center for a new solar installation.

PG&E’s donation will create a 20 kilowatt solar installation at the Center’s new headquarters. This solar addition with work together with the Center’s current 23 kilowatt array and will allow the Center to produce an additional 35,000 kilowatt-hours of clean, renewable energy. This is the equivalent of powering up to 4 homes! Equally important, the Center will save $4,000 a year just from harnessing the power of the sun!

The Center and PG&E will also work together to incorporate renewable energy principles into the Center’s existing education program. PG&E’s Solar Schools Program teaches students about renewable energy. The program teaches students how their everyday actions can truly affect the environment.


Holiday Wishes Come True Thanks to a Board Matching Fund of $10K!


The Center initiated numerous fundraising campaigns throughout the year, including meeting an end-of-year challenge put forth by Board members. On behalf of the seals, we thank you! 




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