A juvenile harp seal nicknamed Prince eats a fish. Photo by Philip Smith/ National Aquarium.

An ocean prince is back where he belongs.

Thanks to Baltimore’s National Aquarium, a juvenile harp seal, nicknamed Prince after the legendary musical icon, has made a full recovery after being found underweight and dehydrated on Rehoboth Beach in February 2023.

Prince received medical care from the National Aquarium Animal Care and Rescue Center (ACRC) in Baltimore after members of the Marine Education, Research & Rehabilitation (MERR) Institute found him in Lewes, Delaware. He was underweight at 42 pounds, and showed signs of dehydration, malnutrition, and sea lice.

MERR estimates Prince was born in the Arctic in April 2022. Protocol for treating him involved treating the lice and dehydration before boosting his weight, which they wanted to do without discouraging his natural feeding instincts. Prince ended up foraging for and consuming 14 pounds of fish per day, bringing him up to 53 pounds, which is considered a healthy weight for a seal his age.

With his rehabilitation successful and complete, Prince was released back into the Atlantic Ocean on Tuesday, April 4, 2023, near 40th Street in Ocean City, Maryland.

The National Aquarium took the opportunity to announce the permanent placement of Aquarium Animal Rescue staff and volunteers on the Atlantic Coast. There will be a team of volunteers with “an ongoing presence on Maryland beaches where they will be able to quickly respond and react to seal sightings as well as other sea turtle and marine mammal stranding situations,” according to Aquarium officials.

The effort will be headed up by the Aquarium’s Stranding Response and Triage Manager, Kate Shaffer.

This full-time presence aims to reduce the reaction time to marine animals in distress since the long commute from Baltimore will be eliminated. The Aquarium announced a formal partnership with the Town of Ocean City to establish a private animal triage and exam space at the Ocean City municipal complex at 65th Street, to allow the team to establish itself as a reliable partner with the beach communities in Maryland.

“We are so excited to have an official presence here on the Atlantic Coast,” Shaffer said. “This region is critical to our work to care for protected and threatened marine species, and being here full time allows us to be more responsive and efficient when time is of the essence. We are grateful to Mayor Rick Meehan, Public Works Director Hal Adkins and members of the Ocean City government for their support in establishing a work site and welcoming us so warmly, and we look forward to making a difference for animals and our neighbors here in this dynamic community.”

A juvenile harp seal nicknamed Prince returns to the Atlantic Ocean on Tuesday, April 4, 2023, near 40th Street in Ocean City, Maryland. Photo by Philip Smith/National Aquarium.

Meehan welcomed the opportunity as well.

“We are thrilled to partner with the National Aquarium and have marine animals treated right here in Ocean City,” he said. “For the National Aquarium to have an ongoing presence in Ocean City will be highly beneficial for marine life.”

Aquarium staff attached a roto-tag to Prince’s back flipper, so that he can be monitored and identified should he need human care in the future. It also produced a sample of Prince’s DNA, which officials say “can be used to help researchers better understand and support the seal species that travel up and down the Eastern Seaboard.”

Incidentally, naming rescued seals after musical legends is a National Aquarium theme, as a grey seal rescued in 2022 was nicknamed Louis Armstrong.

Seal rescue season typically lasts from early winter through May in the mid-Atlantic, and the Aquarium’s Animal Rescue team has permission from National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to respond to marine life in distress along all of Maryland’s 3,190 miles of coastline.

The rescue team wants the public to know, though, that should you encounter a seal on the beach, it may not necessarily be sick; it could just be resting.

Officials caution, “Do not touch or approach it and maintain a distance of 150 feet from the animal. Note your location and time of day and immediately contact the National Aquarium’s Stranded Animal Hotline at 410-576-3880.”

(No word on if there is a musical collaboration in the works between the two seals.)

One reply on “Prince, the harp seal, swims back home after being rehabilitated by the National Aquarium”

  1. The high speed train planning to go through irreplaceable land in Maryland must be stopped! It is to stop destroying our world so man can do as he pleases. Irreplaceable means just that. Destruction is forever. Put your train some place else.
    Come on people rally with me!

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