VANCOUVER -- A Steller sea lion has been safely freed from a plastic packing band that was wound around its neck after a multi-agency rescue effort off the Sunshine Coast on Sunday.

The Vancouver Aquarium says the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) first received reports about the entangled sea lion last week. But the animal ended up going back into the water and wasn’t seen again until this weekend.

On Sunday, a team from the aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre along with crews from the DFO and the Vancouver Police Department’s Marine Unit were dispatched when the sea lion was spotted again near the Trail Islands, off the Sunshine Coast.

The female sea lion was darted with a tranquilizer on nearby rocks, and Dr. Martin Haulena with the Vancouver Aquarium was then able to disentangle the plastic packing band from the animal’s neck. It’s believed the band had likely been embedded in the sea lion’s neck for months, leading to the animal being underweight.

Before the sea lion was freed, it was dosed with antibiotics to aid in its survival. It was last seen swimming away.

Despite the severity of its injuries, the aquarium says it is hopeful the animal will survive.

Steller sea lions are considered a species at-risk.