Mukilteo non-profit wants to open marine life hospital
The first marine animal hospital in Washington state might be built in Mukilteo.
The Mukilteo-based Soundside Marinelife Rescue Center is looking to build a rescue and education center along the waterfront within the next few years.
The non-profit organization has partnered with the Gene Nastri School of Arts to work toward its goals of marine life research, rehabilitation and outreach. Though it won’t stay there, the center is moving into the school on Sept. 1.
Only two centers in the state are able to rehabilitate marine mammals: the PAWS Wildlife Center in Lynnwood and Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehabilitation Center on San Juan Island.
However, these rehab centers are limited in the care they can provide. They aren’t close enough to seawater, can’t take in mammals much bigger than seal pups and don’t have the funds to expand.
There is no hospital for Washington’s sea otters, porpoises and large sea lions or seals. With nowhere for them to go, they are often left to suffer or are euthanized.
“This is a need in Washington,” said Meadow Greenwood, co-founder and executive director of Soundside. “There isn’t a hospital in Washington, and it’s one of the few places that doesn’t have one.
“It’s frustrating that these animals strand and there’s no place for them to go.”
Most recently, a sick sea lion was stranded and in need of care in the Port of Seattle. Four harbor porpoise strandings also were reported within the last month along Washington’s coast.
Orphaned sea otter and harbor porpoise numbers are also on the rise here.
“There’s been a lot of controversy where they’re trying to let nature take its course, but when you have an animal shot and strangled in fishing line, that’s really not nature anymore – that’s human impact,” Greenwood said.
“It’s our responsibility to undo what we’ve done wrong and fix those animals.”
With the Tank Farm in local control, and a lot of changes planned for the Mukilteo-Everett waterfront, Greenwood said the center is looking to build a hospital here.
Soundside is in talks with the city of Mukilteo, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Port of Everett about land donations to build a rescue center.
Ideally, the hospital would be located on 0.5 acre in Snohomish County near the water, anywhere from Edmonds to Everett. Its designs also would need to meet NOAA regulations, including a required $1 million water filtration system. It is estimated to cost $1.5 million to build.
It would have an education center with touch tanks and two-way mirrors that show the marine mammals in rehab. The rescue center would have operating, rehab and necropsy rooms, as well as small and big pools inside and out.
Healthy marine animals would then be released back into the wild.
If it can’t get all of the funds it needs within a year, Soundside would open a limited care center or “mini center” able to take in a least one large sea lion and several seals.
It would essentially be a movable trailer with two pools and storage out back on 7,000 square feet of land. It is estimated to cost $350,000 to build.
“Our goal is to get rehab going as soon as possible, so we are OK with taking even the land next to Gene Nastri and setting up a pool and a system there,” Greenwood said.
“If it’s alive, deceased, injured or sick, we want to help and educate.”
For now, the education center will be at the Gene Nastri School on the Mukilteo Speedway, where Soundside will show interactive educational exhibits, teach marine biology classes, lead art projects and train volunteers.
“A lot of people don’t realize the variety of marine life we have here in Washington,” said Casey Mclean, co-founder and president of Soundside.
“[The center would be] a place where they can come in and learn, see what happens through the rehab process, and why it’s important to take care of our marine environment.”
Greenwood and Mclean, who both have backgrounds in marine mammal rehabilitation, founded the Soundside Marinelife Rescue Center in 2011. If all goes well, they will open the first rescue center specialized for marine mammals in the state.
“The biggest comment we get from people is ‘I can’t believe we don’t have that. I thought we did,’” McClean said. “They think the aquariums are doing it, but they’re not.”
A joint open house for the Gene Nastri School of Arts and Soundside Marinelife Rescue Center, at 8616 Mukilteo Speedway, is scheduled for September.
For more information about Soundside, including how to volunteer or register for classes, go to http://soundsidemarinelife.org.