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.

Quartz pic.jpg


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


10:30 am on August 5, 2016, Pacific Marine Mammal Center received a call about a California sea lion pup in need of help at “The Wedge” in Newport Beach. With the assistance of Newport Beach Harbor Patrol, PMMC’s rescue team was able to safely and successfully bring the animal back to the Center.  
By 12:30pm, “Kershaw,” the 285th sea lion admitted to PMMC in 2016, had arrived at PMMC and was being examined by the Animal Care Staff. He was extremely underweight and undersize at 29 lbs, 38 inches long, and was suffering from severe malnutrition (starvation) and dehydration.

“Kershaw’s” treatment began with an electrolyte fluid diet for rehydration purposes, with fish being gradually added into the clear formula. After 24 hours of tube feedings, “Kershaw” began to eat fish. (Eating fish is a major achievement in the rehabilitation process as eating fish allows our pinniped patients to gain weight quickly and get back to their ocean home.) Thanks to the dedication of the PMMC animal care crew, “Kershaw” was soon competing with his pen mates, eating in the “big pools” and putting on much-needed weight. 

On December 4, 2016, after 4 months of rehabilitation, “Kershaw” was medically cleared, tagged in the front left flipper with an orange Roto tag (#W1902) as well as a satellite tag placed on his upper back. Weighing 89 pounds, he was released at Aliso Creek Beach in South Orange County. With his satellite tag in place, scientists and researchers will be able to monitor “Kershaw” for many weeks post-release.  Kershaw's satellite tag was funded via the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Stokes, PMMC donors.

Satellite Tracking: "Kershaw"

Click on picture for tracking information