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The Siberian Times

Red Book’s Steller Sea lion rescued from a plastic death trap in Russian Far East

By Svetlana Skarbo, Valeria Sukhova
31 January 2022

The endangered mammal got tied up to the Nevelsk breakwater like a chained dog.

‘We used a curved knife on a telescopic pole and had to apply some serious effort to cut the tightly-wrapped nylon off the sea lion’s neck.' Picture: Sergey Lyubachenko

The stranded sea lion with a tight and thick ‘collar’ of old fishing nets wrapped around its neck was noticed by Sakhalin-based photographer Sergey Lyubachenko. 

To make the situation harder, there was a short cord tying the seal to the concrete slabs of the breakwater and leaving it no way to escape by itself.

The footage of the trapped sea lion was shared by Sergey Lyubachenko, who immediately got in touch with the rescuers, and summoned help. 

‘It was very hard to see this strong animal tied to a concrete slab by a piece of plastic rubbish’, Sergey wrote on his social media. 


The trapped Steller Sea Lion at the Nevelsk breakwater, the Far East of Russia. Video: Sergey Lyubachenko


The Nevelsk breakwater is one of three places in the world along with Seattle in America, and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky on the Russian Kamchatka peninsula, where Steller sea lions rest in coastal areas after migration. 

Local enthusiasts from two clubs, Ocean Friends Team and Boomerang, have been watching over the Steller Sea Lion’s community for years, flagging the alarmingly quickly rising number of sea mammals getting trapped in fishing nets and plastic rubbish. 

This mammal was very lucky to be seen so quickly; as Steller Sea Lions are in Russian Red Books, the rescue had to be agreed with the country’s environmental watchdog RosPrirodnadzor. 

Sergey and Pavel Tkachev, another volunteer for the Ocean Friends Team rushed to the breakwater. The sea lion jumped into the water when it saw people, but couldn’t swim away because of the plastic cord. 

Pavel used another rope to fix the stressed animal a bit closer to the breakwater, and then the two men were carefully cutting the plastic rubbish off for about an hour. 


Red Book’s Steller Sea lion rescued from a plastic death trap in Russian Far East


Red Book’s Steller Sea lion rescued from a plastic death trap in Russian Far East


Red Book’s Steller Sea lion rescued from a plastic death trap in Russian Far East


Red Book’s Steller Sea lion rescued from a plastic death trap in Russian Far East
Rescue of the the trapped Steller Sea Lion at the Nevelsk breakwater, the island of Sakhalin, the Far East of Russia. Video, pictures: Sergey Lyubachenko


‘We used a curved knife on a telescopic pole and had to apply some serious effort to cut the tightly-wrapped nylon off the sea lion’s neck. 

‘Finally Lucky - as we named the lion - was free to swim, and hurried away as fast as it could. We were quite tired, but really happy to get there in time’, Sergey wrote.

Local volunteers at Sakhalin, Russia’s largest island and elsewhere in the Far East of Russia have long been asking for state support in helping trapped animals.

Larger animals need to be sedated to be successfully released, and the teams have to be equipped with a set of special medicines which are currently not allowed in Russia.

Comments (1)

What a wonderful rescue thanks to the environmental watchdog Ros Prirodnadzor.

Big wet seal kisses and seal hugs to Serguey and Pavel for spotting the poor trapped creature and rapidly carrying out the rescue.

It was a blessing in disguise that the Steller seal was trapped by the cord to the concrete slate permitting for the rescue to take place. Otherwise it would have ended up swimming around being choked or strangled by all the old fishing nets entangled around it's neck. The cord attached to the concrete slab miraculously prevented the seal from suffering a slow and torturous death.

All is well that ends well...swim and frolic freely for ever sweetheart Stella seal...
Anonymous, Switzerland
12/02/2022 23:46
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