Satellite Tagging and National Collaboration

The Pacific Marine Mammal Center is fortunate to receive grant and foundation funding that allows us to satellite tag and track some of our released animals. Tags can provide us with important information: the movements and location of the animal, dive data (the depth and length of the dive), water temperature and salinity of the water. Other satellite tags just record the animal’s location. This scientific information is invaluable to our research regarding post-release monitoring, and provides PMMC with a small window into the intricate lives of our patients in their natural environment.

Each year, 6 to 8 animals are satellite-tagged and released by PMMC. The tracking device, either a splash or spot tag linked to wildlife computers, sends a signal for approximately 80 days to researchers at PMMC and to Robert DiGiovanni of the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society, our collaborating research organization, for analysis. Mr. DiGiovanni serves as Pacific Marine Mammal Center's chief scientist.

PMMC wishes to thank all of our satellite tag supporters for their contributions towards this project. If you would like to become involved in our post-release monitoring program please read about our Citizens of Science program. If you would like to sponsor a satellite tag, please email Keith Matassa, PMMC’s Executive Director, at


National Collaboration

Pacific Marine Mammal Center is an active member of the National Stranding Network. One of PMMC's network partners is Mystic Aquarium, located in Mystic, Connecticut. Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Clinic has been rescuing marine animals along 1,000 miles of the Northeastern coastline since 1975. Working closely with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service and other government agencies, the Mystic Aquarium Animal Rescue Team responds to an average of 30 stranding calls each year while also providing support to other stranding facilities in New England and even California- based facilities such as Pacific Marine Mammal Center. As part of this nation-wide collaboration, PMMC and Mystic are sharing satellite tracking data between the East and West coast facilities as a means to enhance scientific understanding about and understand seal and sea lion behavior.

The scientific team for the 2016 gray seal pup studies includes researchers from NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) and the National Marine Mammal Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Duke University, Mystic Aquarium, New England Aquarium, Marine Mammals of Maine, University of Connecticut, National Park Service, National Marine Life Center, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution/Northwest Atlantic Seal Research Consortium, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge is operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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On May 28, 2017 PMMC’s rescue team was sent out to Camel Point in Laguna Beach, California to assess, and possibly rescue, a young sea lion.  At 7:45am “Omaha” arrived at PMMC and was examined by the animal care staff. He weighed only 26 lbs (11.8 kg), and was suffering from malnutrition (starvation), dehydration and an injury to his right eye. 

Upon admission to rehabilitation “Omaha” was tube fed electrolytes for rehydration purposes. Once hydrated, veterinary and animal care staff added fish (for calories and protein) to “Omaha’s” clear formula. After 24 hours of care, “Omaha” began to eat fish on his own. (Eating fish is a major achievement in the rehabilitation process: patients gain weight quickly and are soon on their way back to their ocean home.)

After 3 months of rehabilitation, “Omaha” weighed 75 lbs (34 kg). He was medically cleared, tagged in the front left flipper with orange Roto tag #W1978 and fitted with a satellite tag on his upper back. On August 20, 2017 “Omaha” was released at Salt Creek Beach, Dana Point, California. 

“Omaha’s” satellite tag, part of the continuing post-release monitoring project between the Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC) and the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society (AMCS), was provided by Mr.& Mrs. Stokes, very generous donors to PMMC. The satellite tag will provide location data on “Omaha,” as well as water temperature and the depth and duration of dives that “Omaha” makes. Data collected from “Omaha’s” tag will be compared with data from sea lions tagged since 2013 to determine if there are any similarities or differences in dive behavior, feeding patterns, etc. 

Satellite Tracking: "Omaha"

Click on the images for information

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A young male harbor seal pup given the name "Quartz" originally came to Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Clinic on May 24, 2016. He was believed to have been abandoned shortly after birth. He was rescued in Scarborough, ME by the Marine Mammals of Maine before being transferred to Mystic Aquarium. During his 3-1/2 month stay, he received treatment for malnutrition as well as for a minor eye lesion.  After what appeared to be a full-recovery, the 4 to 5 month old Quartz was released back to the ocean environment on Tuesday, September 13, 2016 at Blue Shutters Beach in Charlestown, RI. He was released with five other harbor seals.

Before being released, Quartz received a flipper tag. This tag helped the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, a rescue and rehabilitation organization in New York State, identify Quartz, who, unfortunately, was again in distress. 

Riverhead contacted Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Program, arranging for transport of Quartz back to the clinic to receive additional care. With records on file, Mystic’s animal care professionals had a better understanding of Quartz, his condition and treatment protocol.

Upon re-admittance, Quartz was malnourished and dehydrated.  He also received treatment for multiple wounds on his body and flippers. On February 3, 2017 following his second stay in Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Clinic, Quartz was released from a location known for its seal populations in North Kingston, Rhode Island.

Satellite Tracking: "Quartz"

Click on picture for tracking information