Rehabbed Seal Nears Release

OCEAN CITY – An injured harbor seal found stranded on the beach at 145th Street in Ocean City on Jan. 2 will be released into the ocean next week after a two-month rehabilitation period at the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

The now-healthy seal, affectionately known to aquarium volunteers as “Secca,” will be returned to beach at 40th Street in Ocean City on Monday morning and will be allowed to re-enter the sea on her own terms. Secca was found on the beach in early January and admitted to the National Aquarium’s rehabilitation program due to emaciation, dehydration and an injury to a front flipper.

During her time under the watchful eye of aquarium rehabilitation program volunteers, Secca has gained nearly 30 pounds through a steady diet of herring and capelin and has been interacting with enrichments when given the opportunity. Her name was chosen by aquarium volunteers. Secca means “dry” in Italian and the name refers to the seal’s habit of resting dry on the decks at the aquarium rather than in the water.

Secca will become the 80th animal to be released by the aquarium since the inception of the rescue program in 1990. The very first rehabilitated animal, also a seal, was released on April 11, 1991, one year after the inception of the program. In the past 17 years, the rescue program, comprised mainly of volunteers, has responded to hundreds of stranded animals.

Secca will arrive in Ocean City early Monday morning and is expected to be released back into the sea at 40th Street around 9 a.m. Aquarium officials said the seal will be released on the beach around seven to 10 feet from the water and then be allowed to re-enter the ocean as it wishes. Secca is being released now because rescue program volunteers believe she is ready to hunt and live on her own after an extensive rehabilitation program.

Secca will become the second harbor seal released on the beach in Ocean Cty by the National Aquarium’s rescue program. The first, named Sand Dollar by aquarium staffers, was released on the beach in Ocean City on March 15, 2005. Sand Dollar was found stranded on the beach in Virginia Beach with injuries to her head, neck and eye and was transported to the National Aquarium in Baltimore for rehabilitation.

Like Sand Dollar three years earlier, Secca will be equipped with a satellite tag that will allow rescue program volunteers and the public to track her progress following her release on Monday. The seal’s movements will be able to be tracked by following