Seattle Aquarium harbor seal Q passes away

SEATTLE, WA — The Seattle Aquarium is deeply saddened to announce that Q, one of our beloved harbor seals, has passed away. He was one of three harbor seals living at the Seattle Aquarium.

Twenty-two-year-old Q started showing some health issues in March of this year. Veterinarian and animal care staff ran many diagnostics and found a mass inside his chest. After reviewing his case with many specialists (marine mammal specialists, cardiologists, radiologists and oncologists), the most likely diagnosis was cancer, probably mediastinal lymphoma (cancer within the lymph nodes in his chest). 

Little is known about this type kind of cancer in harbor seals, as the few reported cases were all diagnosed post-mortem. In dogs and cats, this type of cancer readily goes into remission with treatment, but improvement is temporary, and the cancer typically only stays in remission for weeks to months in those species. 

Q showed great improvement under treatment for a time. Aquarium animal care staff developed a close monitoring plan and continually assessed his comfort and quality of life until the sad decision was made to humanely euthanize him on June 23, 2021.

“We will continue to learn a lot from Q and hope that we can use this information to help with diagnosis and treatment of this disease in other seals,” says Seattle Aquarium Senior Veterinarian Dr. Caitlin Hadfield. “He will be missed—and his impact will live on.”

Q was born at Sea World San Diego and came to the Seattle Aquarium in February 2002 at age 3. He has been an Aquarium favorite since then, teaching millions of visitors about harbor seals. Q also sired Hogan, the youngest harbor seal at the Aquarium.

The Seattle Aquarium also recently lost sea otter Aniak, who passed away at age 19 last week. “The Aquarium is fortunate to provide a home for some amazingly long-lived animals, and we’re extremely proud of the care they receive with us,” comments Curator of Birds & Mammals Julie Carpenter. “It’s always hard to say goodbye to one when their time comes.” 

Our other elderly mammals, including 35-year-old harbor seal Barney and 21-year-old sea otter Adaa (currently the oldest sea otter in the U.S.), continue to do well. 

About the Seattle Aquarium
Founded in 1977 and located on Pier 59 in the heart of Seattle, Washington, the nonprofit Seattle Aquarium serves as the largest platform for ocean conservation and engagement in the Pacific Northwest. With a mission of Inspiring Conservation of Our Marine Environment, it leads educational, conservation and regional research initiatives for a healthier planet. A thriving and vibrant Aquarium is a key part of Seattle. Help secure the Aquarium for years to come by donating to the Resilience Fund at

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Tim Kuniholm
(206) 386-4345