SEA LIFE Blankenberge Named As Official Government Rescue Centre For Porpoises

The centre has recently benefited from a grant which has helped fund further renovation and expansions to their facilities to help rescue, rehabilitate, and release of porpoises.

On Friday 9 June, SEA LIFE Blankenberge reopened their renovated seal rescue centre after months of renovation and investment. The new development now enables the hospital to provide care and shelter for rescued porpoises, in addition to the existing facilities for rescued seals, which has been open since 1998.

SEA LIFE Blankenberge has been investing and renovating it’s seal care facilities for many years including new seal pools and upgrading its care facilities to be world-class. This included windows of the pool area were replaced and a completely new filter system has been installed to enable rescued seals to reside in the waters of their natural habitat.

SEA LIFE Blankenberge uses water coming directly from the North Sea to re-create the natural habitat for the animals. This seawater then passes through three different filters before being used.

“We are delighted with our new status as a rescue and welfare centre – now for both seals and porpoises. The improvements seen are just part of our ongoing innovations to be a world-class recue centre. We will always strive to provide the best facilities to the animals in our care. It is important to us that any injured or sick animals that we help can be released back into the wild as soon as possible after they are rescued. By creating the very best welfare centres we are mimicking their natural environment as much as possible which further supports their transition back to full health and release status.”

Steve Vermote, General Manager at SEA LIFE Blankenberge

SEA LIFE Blankenberge has been rescuing and rehabilitating sick and injured seals on the Belgian coast since 1998. Since then, the shelter has supported more than 600 animals, who have then been released back to the wild.

"Over the last 25 years, we have been able to collect significant data on all the rescued animals. As part of our ongoing focus on raising awareness of the issues facing seals, we are pleased to now be able to share this information with our guests in a fun and interactive way. Due to our years of expertise and experience with seals, we are one of the top European centres when it comes to sheltering seals. We have regular contact with colleagues from our neighbouring countries to exchange information and thus collect data on the different seal populations on our Belgian Coast. We know that this population is growing. In addition, we are getting more and more calls for our Rescue Team to go on site to examine and catch a pup."

Steve Vermote, General Manager at SEA LIFE Blankenberge

Today, 'Rosa' was released, who had been cared for at SEA LIFE Blankenberge since 14 April. This common seal was found by the Rescue Team on Ostend beach with festering eyes and a bleeding nose. She was much emaciated, had a high fever and also lung worms. 'Rosa' had previously been taken in at a seal sanctuary in Germany. She is about 10 months old.

Currently, there is one more rescued pup at the shelter in SEA LIFE that needs more intensive care and shelter. Once fully recovered and strengthened, it too will be able to be released.

As of today, SEA LIFE Blankenberge is also responsible for the rescue of porpoises

"Here, too, we notice that the number of strandings is increasing. In addition, it turns out that these animals, which are the most common species of whale in the North Sea, did not have proper rescue facilities available until now. It was therefore obvious for us to provide a suitable space for these animals in our renovation as well. Our Rescue Team is available 24/7, together with the North Seal Team on the beaches. As a result, we are able to deploy in a short period of time and rescue the animals,"

Steve Vermote, General Manager at SEA LIFE Blankenberge

Together with the KBIN, the North Sea Cabinet and Marine Environment Service, some strict conditions have been drawn up to which SEA LIFE Blankenberge must comply.

"The porpoise is the most common small cetacean in our North Sea, there are about 4,000 of them. The porpoise is sensitive to certain pollutants, overfishing and sometimes they also get caught in nets. Last year, I have already taken several measures to protect marine mammals. These included a restriction on the recreational use of fishing nets. In 2022, 45 porpoises were stranded, the lowest number since 2004. These were often young, starving animals. It is good that here in Blankenberge we now have new and well-equipped infrastructure and well-trained people to take care of sick or injured porpoises. The aim must always be to get the animals back into the sea. I am confident that SEA LIFE will give them the best opportunities to do so.”

Vincent Van QuickenborneMinister of North Sea