National Aquarium Celebrates World Oceans Day with Release of Rehabilitated Grey Seal

The rescued seal more than doubled his body weight while in the National Aquarium's care.

The National Aquarium is celebrating World Oceans Day 2022 with the release of a rehabilitated juvenile grey seal. The seal, nicknamed Louis Armstrong, was returned to his ocean habitat equipped with technology to follow his aquatic journey, as well as having his DNA sent to be studied to learn more about seal populations along the East Coast.

When Louis arrived at the National Aquarium's Animal Care and Rescue Center (ACRC) on February 26 after stranding at Assateague Island National Seashore, he was just a few weeks old and weighed only 35 pounds. At that age and size, Louis would still have been dependent upon his mother for nutrition and support. Animal Health and Rescue staff took on his care, feeding him gently in light of severe dehydration and wounds to his face, and eventually teaching him to swim and forage for his food independently.

During his 14 weeks at the ACRC, Louis proved worthy of his name, trumpeting loudly to communicate his wants and needs and letting his spirited personality shine. Despite initial injuries to his face and flipper, Louis was medically cleared for release in conjunction with the Aquarium's partners at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Louis made his way back into the ocean on June 3 at Assateague Island National Seashore. Despite early difficulty eating and gaining weight, Louis grew to a robust 75 pounds after an impressive weight gain of 40 pounds, most of which took place over the past month after Louis mastered foraging for his own food and catching live fish, just as he will need to in the ocean.

The National Aquarium will follow Louis' oceanic journey through the use of a non-invasive temporary satellite tag affixed with adhesive that, so long as it stays attached until his next molt, will send readings of his depth and location back to the team. These metrics can both offer some assurance that Louis is doing well and give us insight into the migration and rookery habits of seals in this region.

Additionally, Louis was fitted with a new flipper tag which will alert other institutions to his history at the National Aquarium should he encounter humans again. The placement of the tag generates a DNA sample that has been shared with colleagues at the University of Maine who are working to establish a better understanding of seal populations along the East Coast, from their migration habits to genetic links from colony to colony. This research will also help researchers understand how infection and illness impact some grey and harbor seals and not others.

Of course, nothing impacts the health of marine mammals and other aquatic life more than the health of the ocean. With Louis's release taking place the week leading up to World Oceans Day, the National Aquarium is taking the opportunity to reflect on the ocean that he is returning to ensure that the Aquarium is doing everything it can to improve ocean health and protect aquatic life. In the United States, the environmental legislation within the current administration's Build Back Better bill and America the Beautiful campaign highlights the change necessary to insulate people and animals from the impending effects of climate change. Supporting these measures—and the legislators that prioritize them—helps create positive change for the planet, for animals and for people.

Better land and marine conservation means more parks, expanded access to nature, enhanced wildlife protection and investment in jobs and science that support overall environmental health. The best way to celebrate World Oceans Day is to support legislation that supports human, animal and planet health, today and every day.

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