A sea lion that was rescued from San Francisco’s Pier 39 after being found entangled in plastic last week is safe at sea this afternoon, a Marine Mammal Center spokesman said.

At about 11 a.m. today, in front of an audience of around 100 people, a crew from the Marine Mammal Center brought the animal, nicknamed the “Blonde Bomber,” to Rodeo Beach in the Marin Headlands and released him into the ocean, Marine Mammal Center spokesman Jim Oswald said.

“He seemed very happy to get out of the carrier and moved pretty quickly to the water,” Oswald said. “But just as he was going into the water, he stopped and looked back to everyone, it was as if he was trying to say ‘thank you.’

“It was pretty cool,” Oswald added.

The sea lion had been under observation at the center since Oct. 9 when it was rescued from Pier 39’s “K-Dock,” Oswald said.

The next day, after a veterinarian removed the plastic packaging wrap from around the sea lion’s neck, blood samples were taken for testing. The blood tests came back negative for diseases, Oswald said.

The sea lion was agitated and was not eating after being captured, but has since regained his appetite, he said.

“The good news is he’s one of the lucky ones that he gets to go back into the wild,” Oswald said.

A second entangled sea lion was also spotted at Pier 39 the day of the rescue, but was scared off by a tour boat and has not been seen since.

Oswald said this rescue is a fitting salute to the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which will officially celebrate its 40th anniversary this weekend. The act protects marine mammals from being harassed, hunted or killed.

Anyone who spots an injured or entangled marine mammal can call the center at (415) 289-7325.

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