Mystic Aquarium gives animals second chance

Utilizing a 24-hour hotline
Thu, 05/30/2019 - 4:45pm

“Take three for the sea.”

That’s the motto of Sarah Callan, Assistant Manager of Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Program, who told The Block Island Times that, “It’s very rewarding to see the work we do make a difference in protecting marine animals. It’s important to give them the best care. We have a great veterinary staff on campus at the aquarium. We want to give the animals a second chance at life.”

Callan was talking about the aquarium’s Animal Rescue Program, which began in the 1990s, developed over the years and involves more than 250 first responders handling 1,000 miles of the northeast’s coastline, including Block Island. She said the program has a 24-hour hotline that is staffed by two full-time employees and one part-time employee, who assign cases to the responders. It is permitted through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the two groups share a database of information about the cases they handle.

Callan said Block Island is home to a dedicated and passionate group of Mystic Aquarium First Responders. A press release from the group said that 19 local residents recently participated in training for Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Program in preparation for their role as the eyes and ears of Mystic’s team. 

“We respond to live or dead animals,” said Callan, a Connecticut native who attended St. Lawrence University in upstate New York and majored in psychology. “We get a lot of hotline calls — sometimes amounting to 11 to 13 cases per day. Every day for the last couple of months it’s been very busy.” Callan said that harp seals migrate down from Canada from January to April, which leads to the busy time period.

Callan said her group visits Block Island to monitor the seal population, which, she said, has steadily increased due to changes in the environment. She speaks from experience, as she noted that she worked with monk seals in Hawaii. “I saw first hand the damage that’s been done to the environment,” she said, referring to the impact of climate change on the planet. Callan said it inspired her to continue working in the field. “I knew I wanted to protect the animals that inhabit our oceans,” she said. 

As for what someone should do when they spot an animal on the shoreline, Callan said, “Give the hotline a call,” Although, she noted that, “It’s normal for seals to sometimes haul out for several days. They don’t need to eat for several days.” 

She also said to, “Be mindful of the environment. Take three for the sea.” In other words, take three seconds to consider the environment and the animals living in it.

Callan will be giving a presentation about the collaboration between Mystic Aquarium and Block Island for the Conservation of Marine Mammals and Sea Turtles at the Block Island Maritime Institute on Tuesday, Aug. 20 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.