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Seal Sitters new volunteer training scheduled

Seal Sitters MMSN, celebrating 10 years of service, holds several special trainings a year for those wanting to protect marine mammals along the shoreline of West Seattle and the Duwamish River. We are a very active network and have volunteers who travel from around the area to participate. However, if you live out of the West Seattle area and would like to find a stranding network closer to where you live, click here.

Please note:
Every stranding network requires their own unique training - attending a Seal Sitters MMSN training does not qualify you to volunteer for a network in a differing location.

Unlike most marine mammal stranding networks, we encourage children to participate in Seal Sitters - supervised at all times, of course, by a parent or guardian. We are proud of our dedicated volunteers who are on duty rain or shine - we hope you will join us!

A multi-media presentation will illustrate the unique challenges of protecting seals and other marine mammals in an urban environment and our educational work in the community. Included in the training is an overview of NOAA's West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network and biology and behavior of seals and other pinnipeds (due to short time frame, supplementary sessions may be held to include more marine mammals of Puget Sound).

*This will be our final training during pupping season, the height of which is typically mid-August - October in the Seattle area, when weaned pups strike out on their own and often end up alone on urban beaches.

10am - 12:30pm (doors open for registration at 9:30am)
*please arrive early to receive and fill out paperwork

ALKI UCC (*there is no church affiliation with Seal Sitters MMSN)
front meeting room
6115 SW Hinds St
Seattle, WA 98116 (
map it here)

RSVP required to attend. (*please include full name - including name/ages of attending children - and the neighborhood you live in)

*PARENTS PLEASE NOTE: all children in attendance must be able to sit quietly through an approximate 2 hour training session with a short 10 minute break.
Trainings are targeted towards an adult audience, but children can find the content engaging as well.

For additional questions and info OR to be placed on a contact list for future training opportunities, please email us. Seal Sitters MMSN does not hold trainings during the height of our pupping season August - October due to time constraints on volunteers responding to marine mammals. If you would like to help protect marine mammals this pupping season, please plan to attend this session.

Seal pup repeatedly harrassed while trying to rest

Adding to a stretch of busy marine mammal responses the past few weeks by Seal Sitters MMSN, we received reports after the fact of people harassing a seal pup at a popular viewpoint park in West Seattle.

On Friday, the hotline received a call that someone was repeatedly “poking” a harbor seal pup on the beach. Our first responder was on the scene in record time, but both the seal and offender were gone. The seal did not return.

Photos of a seal pup resting at the same location were taken and posted the following Tuesday evening on the West Seattle Blog. The photographer commented that he had to warn people to leave the pup alone. Unfortunately, no one called the Seal Sitters’ hotline that day to ensure the pup’s safety.

SSMMSN’s first responders were out early on Wednesday morning, checking the beach to see if the seal might be onshore. The sand was empty, but they could see a glossy little head about 100 yards out from the pier, where the pup appeared to be foraging. The pup came ashore around 10am, nestling in the barnacle covered rocks below the sea wall (photo above). Access to the small pocket beach was promptly closed off with tape and informational signage that seals are protected by Federal law from harassment and harm.

Seal Sitters volunteers worked in shifts to answer questions from the public, educating hundreds about seal pups’ urgent need for rest against just 50% odds of survival their first year. The pup, nicknamed Seamor by a young volunteer, snoozed for many hours in the warm sun. As evening approached, the incoming tide and a large series of waves from a passing ferry headed for Bainbridge Island, swept over Seamor and the pup reluctantly headed out into the Sound.

Someone mentioned witnessing a person “lying on top” of the pup the day before. When the person finally got up and off, the frightened seal escaped into the water.

If you witness a marine mammal illegally being harassed, please take a photo to document the incident (do not put yourself at risk!) and contact NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement @ 1-800-853-1964. In West Seattle, please call Seal Sitters, a member of NOAA’s West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network, first so we can get on the scene.

Seamor returned to the small beach about 11am on Thursday, where Seal Sitters had been waiting patiently, anticipating the pup’s arrival. Once again, the area around the pup was secured so that he/she could rest as undisturbed as possible in a very busy urban location. On the street above, busses and motorcycles roared by. Not-so-considerate beach visitors cruised back and forth in cars, blasting music at ear-shattering decibels.

Somehow, though all the human chaos, Seamor did manage to get some sleep and rested under the watchful eye of Seal Sitters and rapt onlookers who peered into the spotting scope, allowing a closeup view of the white-coated pup. Around 9pm on this stunning evening, as the sun dropped behind the silhouette of the Olympic Mountains, Seamor finally flopped across the beach and disappeared into waves.

On Friday, expecting the pup’s return to that northernmost point of West Seattle, volunteers stood by. However, the area was busy with people walking and standing along the sea wall and there was very little beach to rest upon. We sighted a seal head glimmering offshore. Then, to our surprise, Seamor hauled out over 1/2 mile around the bend. Volunteers once again protected the beautiful little pup who snoozed until after 9pm. After waiting about 20 minutes to make sure there was no return trip to shore, tired volunteers gathered up stranding materials and finally went home to eat a very late dinner.

Seamor seems to be a pretty healthy pup, estimated to be about 4 weeks old and recently weaned. Wet rings around the eyes indicated that the pup is well-hydrated. The health of a pup can quickly take a downturn if not allowed to rest. Please make sure to call Seal Sitters hotline @ 206-905-SEAL (7325) promptly if you see a seal pup - or any marine mammal - onshore.

Humpback whale strands and dies on West Seattle beach

The last thing Seal Sitters MMSN (SSMMSN) hotline operator Kristen and First Responder Robin were anticipating early Sunday morning was a call about a “distressed baby whale” in Fauntleroy Cove. Headed to her car, Robin texted MMSN partner Cascadia Research to inquire if they had heard any reports of a whale by the ferry dock.

Fully expecting to see a harbor porpoise, often mistaken for a whale calf, the responder was stunned on arrival to see a partially submerged juvenile humpback about 30 feet from shore. Immediately, she texted Cascadia and WDFW Marine Mammal Investigations that we had a live whale stranding in West Seattle. The next text was to Seal Sitters First Responders to gather buckets and sheets. Our volunteer scheduler for the day, Arden, began making calls to line up volunteers for what would undoubtedly be a very long day.

A crowd had already begun to gather on the ferry dock above the beach. After updating concerned onlookers and West Seattle Blog editor Tracy Record that whale stranding experts were on the way, she tossed orange cones, signs and stakes over the side and dropped down over the railing, to begin establishing a perimeter on the shore to keep people at bay. A large whale stranding in an urban area attracts huge crowds and she knew media would be on the scene imminently.

SSMMSN volunteers began arriving and donned Seal Sitters blue vests identifying themselves as members of NOAA’s Marine Mammal Stranding Network. Several Whale Trail volunteers pitched in as well to help keep the public informed as events unfolded. There were lots of questions from distraught observers lining the ferry dock walkway and on the private beach below.

Thankfully, the morning was overcast and cool. However, as the tide receded there would be a need to keep the thin whale wet and as comfortable as possible. That would most likely involve a line of volunteers passing buckets of water once the animal was fully exposed.

The fervent hope was that the animal was healthy enough to return to the Sound with the incoming tide many hours later - but breathing was already becoming less pronounced.

The Cascadia team, led by stranding coordinator Jessie Huggins, arrived along with Jeff Hogan, orca researcher and executive director of Killer Whale Tales. The two waded out into waist-deep water with buckets (photo above). They cautiously approached the whale, fully aware that one flick of the approximate 11-foot long, white pectoral fins or tail fluke could send them to the hospital, or worse. Due to their large size and the stressful situation they are in, live stranded whales pose a very real risk to First Responders.

Spreading sheets over the massive back, being careful that the blow hole was not covered so the whale could breathe, they then settled into a repetitive routine of pouring buckets of water to hydrate, pausing briefly in between to comfort the animal. They were joined in the water by MaST stranding team’s Kaddee Lawrence.

WDFW-MMI’s team, led by Dyanna Lambourn, was on site to assist with stranding response and necropsy, if necessary. Cascadia’s research scientist, John Calambokidis, made the drive from Olympia. John and NOAA Fisheries’ Lynne Barre fielded questions from the Seattle Times, West Seattle Blog, West Seattle Herald and every major local tv network.

Sadly, the efforts were in vain and the whale died at approximately 10:30am.

The death of the whale set into motion the next set of complications - how to move a 39 foot animal weighing approximately 15,000 lbs. The goal was to find a suitable location to perform a necropsy. Such an exam would help determine if there were underlying health issues that contributed to the emaciation.

The first recorded humpback whale stranding in Puget Sound took place at the end of December, 2015. This juvenile would be the third stranding in less than a year (click here to find out the definition of a “stranding”). However, humpback sightings have increased in the Sound, so along with more sightings, comes the potential for more strandings. The biologists were intent on getting samples to see if there was any significant disease or contaminant trend.

Finally, after hours trying to deal with the complications - and expense - of towing and finding an appropriate site, it was decided the best option was to do a limited necropsy on the beach. The Cascadia and WDFW-MMI team worked quickly with an incoming tide, taking measurements, tissue, blood, fecal and blubber samples. Based on length, the female whale’s age was estimated as a juvenile, between 1.5 - 3 years old.

The whale was in poor body condition, with whale lice infestation and a parasite load in the intestinal tract. A weakened whale is an easy mark for harassment by transients orcas and there was evidence of orca rake wounds. For more details of the limited necropsy findings, visit Cascadia’s Facebook page.

Following the necropsy, the whale was towed by Washington State Ferry (WSF) workers and secured temporarily to the dock. On Tuesday morning, following a tow to an undisclosed location in the Sound, the carcass will be sunk and become a rich source of nourishment for varied marine life.

This terribly sad event was a well-choreographed team effort by many member groups of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network. We want to thank the homeowners, on whose beach the whale stranded, for their generosity throughout the day and evening. And special thanks to the WSF staff for their support on this challenging task and providing staff and vessels to move the whale.

Thanks to the volunteers who put in long hours yesterday, answering questions and keeping people back, enabling the biologists to do their work more efficiently. Seal Sitters volunteer Buzz Shaw, retired zoologist from the Seattle Aquarium, ended up with a unique keepsake. Upon arriving home last evening, he discovered the sheet he contributed to the cause was crawling with whale lice. Today, he managed to supply seven very happy teachers with whale lice for their classrooms and said, “It was a great way to make something positive out of a whale stranding and death.”

Many onlookers inquired how they can help. Local stranding networks can always use reliable volunteers (MMSN map of response areas here).

Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network responds to reports of all marine mammals along West Seattle shoreline. We will be holding our final volunteer training session for this season (the height of harbor seal pupping season in our area is September and October) on Saturday, August 27.

To learn more about the training and to RSVP, click here.

Harbor seal dies after apparent attack by large dog

In a sad and disturbing turn of events, a juvenile harbor seal was the apparent victim of an attack by a large dog. Following rescue from a West Seattle beach by Seal Sitters MMSN, the seal died overnight at PAWS Wildlife Center on Wednesday, July 27.

The seal was reported resting at Constellation Park, also known as Charles Richey Viewpoint Park, late that morning (photo above). First Responders located the small animal near the sea wall and closed the ramp leading down to the beach. Tape and signs were strung along the metal railing above the pup to keep people from leaning over and scaring her back into the Sound. Undisrupted rest is crucial to survival.

When the light-coated seal rolled over onto her back, two distinctly parallel puncture wounds were noticed on the throat. Constellation is a notorious destination for people with off-leash dogs and First Responders were immediately suspicious. Photos were taken with a long telephoto lens and sent to a WDFW Marine Mammal Investigations Unit (WDFW-MMI) biologist for review. The wounds were confirmed consistent with attack by a canine. However, the seal returned to the water as high tide erased the beach she was resting on.

Several hours later, Seal Sitters’ dedicated hotline (206-905-7325) received a call from a homeowner who had a seal on her beach. She was concerned that people with off-leash dogs often accessed the beach at low tide.

The seal was lethargic, dehydrated and looked markedly thin. The neck wounds, viewed from a different angle, appeared terribly infected. Salt water can sometimes heal wounds, depending on location and severity. A text was sent to Seattle Aquarium veterinarian Dr. Lesanna Lahner. After a health consultation on the beach, she recommended immediate transport to PAWS for treatment. Since the injury was suspected to be inflicted by a domestic dog, the case was classified as human interaction and, therefore, an unnatural predation.

The seal was driven by Seal Sitters to PAWS in Lynnwood, but died overnight. A necropsy was performed by marine mammal biologist Dyanna Lambourn of WDFW-MMI.

The wounds were consistent with those inflicted by a large dog - larger punctures and “less professional” than coyote bites. Since the attack was not witnessed (or at least reported) by anyone and the seal was found in an area known for off-leash dogs, the expert opinion was apparent predation by a large domestic canine. Tissue and blood samples have been sent out to a lab for analysis.

Upon exam, it was determined that the female seal was a juvenile and terribly thin, weighing only about 14kg (close to the birth weight of a seal pup).

Harbor seals are extremely vulnerable on land since, unlike sea lions, they can’t rotate their rear flippers for locomotion. Using only their front flippers, they move much like a caterpillar on the beach. Seals need to rest long hours out of Puget Sound’s frigid waters to warm up and gain the strength to forage. Unless close to the water’s edge, a seal - most especially, a very young, struggling or sleeping one - probably cannot escape a charging dog.

Countless times each year, Seal Sitters First Responders and our stranding network volunteers have conversations with people who have taken their dogs on the beach, illegal in Seattle Parks (read the ordinance here). A few are leashed, but the vast majority run free or chase after sticks and balls thrown into the water - on practically every beach in West Seattle. Often, the dogs can be seen on their own, exploring around the woody debris high up on the beach at Lincoln Park, where tired harbor seal pups sometimes will rest after a high tide.

The response that volunteers often hear when asking people to please leash their animal is, “My dog would never hurt anything.” That just simply cannot be predicted.

Dogs have a keen sense of smell and curiosity and instinctively chase other animals and birds. This includes the off-leash dog that viciously attacked an adult Canada Goose on the shore of Elliott Bay (at right, the bird survived after a lengthy rehab and was reunited with his mate and goslings). Or, the off-leash dog that injured one of Lincoln Park’s iconic and beloved white geese, who recovered.

Two years ago, there were a number of seal pups with suspect puncture wounds along West Seattle’s stretch of Puget Sound shoreline. Additionally, Seal Sitters has witnessed dogs that have chased seal pups back into the water, barely missing tearing into the rear flippers. Seals are protected from harassment and harm by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, violations of which are punishable by fine or imprisonment. NOAA recommends a distance of 100 yards from marine mammals whenever possible to avoid disturbance of their natural behavior.

“We’re so fortunate to live in a city that loves its animals, and we need to be responsible pet owners. Dogs are not allowed on Seattle beaches and must be kept on a leash in parks, except in designated off-leash areas,” said Brett Rogers, Seattle Animal Shelter regulatory compliance supervisor. “Owners who disregard the law are subject to various fines and penalties. Much more important than the financial disincentive, however, is safety. Not only do we need to be mindful of the needs of the wildlife that share our shores, our dogs rely on us to keep them safe from harm and from doing harm.”

All wildlife is in a daily struggle to survive, requiring many hours of foraging. They need stress-free rest, to conserve energy and recharge, as do all living things. A dog who disrupts this cycle can cause their decline and demise. Even worse, the dog who gets hold of wildlife can cause grave injury and death. There are certainly many, many attacks by off-leash dogs that go unknown or unreported. Enough is enough.

It is heartbreaking to think that this seal was terrorized by a domestic dog, one who should never have been on a beach. First seen at Constellation Park, the small seal was nicknamed Nova, which is the sudden brightness of a star.

Media, please click here for list of contacts for Seal Sitters, NOAA, PAWS, Seattle Animal Control and Seattle Aquarium veterinarian.

We want to stress that Seal Sitters is by no means “anti-dog”. Many of us own and/or think the world of dogs. We are supportive of well-designed and conveniently located off-leash areas where dogs can get the exercise they need - safely, for both dogs and wildlife.

We ask all dog owners to be respectful and obey the common sense leash laws, so that everyone can enjoy the unique variety of wildlife that shares our neighborhoods and beaches.

It is now harbor seal pupping season and not unusual to find harbor seal pups resting on shore. Most often, a lone young seal will be a weaned pup or juvenile. A seal pup alone on shore that is still nursing age is usually the result of some kind of disturbance. The mom may abandon her pup if she feels it is not safe. Please stay back and call your local stranding network. In West Seattle, call Seal Sitters hotline @ 206-905-SEAL (7325).

To learn more about harbor seals and the work of NOAA’s Marine Mammal Stranding Network, please visit Seal Sitters’ website.

Tired seal pup seeks rest on Seattle's busiest beach

This past weekend, the scene at Alki Beach in West Seattle was indeed a crazy one. The annual Alki Art Fair, with live music, art exhibits, craft and jewelry booths and food vendors, lined the crowded beach promenade. The many participants included Seal Sitters MMSN, where volunteers manned a booth displaying educational materials and a hands-on art project for kids.

Adding to the throng of people, there was a beach volleyball tournament taking place mid-beach with hundreds of participants and fans. A steady stream of people toting kayaks and paddle boards crossed the beach from Alki Kayak rentals and lingered offshore. Families picnicked and kids played in the shallows.

Amid all this chaos, a tiny and thin harbor seal pup sought sanctuary to rest and flopped ashore late Saturday afternoon - smack dab in front of the volleyball courts. First responders taped off the area and the young pup rested until dusk (stretching in the evening light, photo at left) before returning to Puget Sound.

Over the course of three days, the pup nicknamed Little One came and went from the stretch of sandy beach at Alki, keeping Seal Sitters First Responders on their toes and requiring long hours of protection. Seal Sitters volunteers pitched in to help keep the pup safe on this beach, popular with sunbathers, swimmers and water sports - and (illegal) dogs.

Keeping kayakers and paddle boarders away was our most difficult challenge. The pup showed obvious signs of stress when these small vessels were within 50 yards of shore. Little One was too young to understand the dangers on land.

What could have been Seal Sitters’ worst nightmare of a pup on a crowded urban beach ended up being a fantastic few days with an appreciative and respectful public. In addition to folks from the Puget Sound region, our volunteers educated visitors from all over the U.S. and world, including China, Australia, Germany, Wyoming, Georgia, Philadelphia, Ohio, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, California, and Alberta, Canada. The many thank-you’s from these visitors and residents were perks to tired volunteers.

Each day, the pup lingered longer onshore. Late Monday afternoon, Seal Sitters’ Lead Investigator consulted with a marine mammal veterinarian and Stranding Network marine mammal experts about the pup’s thin condition, as well as the inherently dangerous location.

Working together to make a joint decision based on limited rehabilitation options, it was determined that the pup would be captured the following day. Little One would be relocated to a safer area, the closest harbor seal haul-out and rookery site, where the estimated 3-4 week old pup could potentially get adopted or even reunite with mom.

Little One came ashore very early morning the 4th day. She returned to the water twice - once due to kayakers too close and the second trip due a pesky, pecking seagull. Seal Sitters First Responders worried that they might not have an opportunity for a successful capture.

Finally, the pup finally settled in about 10 feet from the tide line. First Responders quietly crept along the water’s edge and picked up Little One. Only members of NOAA’s Marine Mammal Stranding Network are authorized to handle marine mammals, who are protected by Federal law. It is illegal for others to touch, feed, or move seal pups.

The pup was transported to a quieter location, where a boat with WDFW Marine Mammal Investigations Unit’s marine mammal biologist and volunteer was waiting to whisk Little One away.

The small female pup was examined, hydrated with fluids and Dextrose for energy and released at a seal haul-out, where up to 100 harbor seals gather at times. A red tag was placed on Little One’s rear flipper before being set free, in hopes of re-sighting her on the ridge of rocks situated safely in the Sound, far away from humans and dogs. We will provide updates if the pup is sighted during WDFW-MMI’s frequent surveys of the area.

Thanks to all of the Seal Sitters volunteers who showed poise and patience under trying circumstances in extremely hot weather.

We are grateful to our consulting partners in NOAA MMSN, most notably WDFW-MMI for literally going the extra mile to relocate the pup.

Special thanks to the many people who let Seal Sitters know when Little One came ashore on Saturday and Sunday, enabling us to protect the vulnerable pup as soon as possible.

Seal Sitters hotline received reports of two other pups on Sunday and Monday, but they could not be located when our responder arrived. Entering our hotline number, 206-905-7325 (SEAL), into your cell phone can mean quicker volunteer responses and help us protect seal pups in a timely manner.

Seal pups are popping out all over South Puget Sound

Harbor seal moms are now giving birth all over the South Puget Sound region and will continue to do so until early September (as late as October in Hood Canal - see pupping season map).

In the ideal world, pups are born on remote beaches, far from potential interference from humans and dogs. However, births also occur on marina docks, log booms, offshore platforms, boat launches and beaches popular for swimming and kayaking.

Shown in the photo here are two moms with their pups resting on a logboom breakwater near a marina. The chubby pup (center) appears close to being weaned and a small, newborn pup is in the background. Pups are generally weaned at around 4 weeks old.

Please respect wildlife’s need to rest and nurse their young. Whether you’re on land or in a watercraft, please keep your distance to avoid disturbance and possible abandonment. All marine mammals are protected from harassment by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Visit Seal Sitters’ dedicated website page for more information on harbor seals and pups.

Seal pupping season in full swing - stay away from seals and pups!

Harbor seal pupping season is underway in Washington. Seal pups can be found resting and warming up on coastal beaches and along inland waters. On the outer coast, about 75% of all pups are weaned and on their own - and commonly seen alone on the beach.

Nursing pups, however, are dependent on their moms for survival for the first 4-6 weeks of their lives. In the waters of Central and South Puget Sound, pups are born from late June through the first week of September (view a map of pupping season in WA). Always stay far back from any pup you come across.

A harbor seal mom, shy and wary of humans, will abandon her pup if people and dogs are around. Use common sense and help protect wildlife from harassment and abandonment.

As you head for the beach, know that seashore revelry is definitely no party for harbor seal pups, who are seeking to rest onshore. Humans and dogs cause pups to be abandoned every year. A harbor seal mom often will not return for her nursing pup if there is a disturbance or perceived threat. It goes without saying that July fireworks cause animals to be abandoned every year.

If you find a spot for your picnic on a beach near a harbor seal, please move your picnic to another beach. There are reports of people with blankets and coolers surrounding a lone seal pup - finally calling the stranding network wondering why the mother did not return.

Weaned seal pups need space to rest undisturbed as well. A pup that is scared into the water wastes precious calories - and this can truly be the difference between life and death.

This is a reminder that when you venture out to the beach, whether by trail or boat, please respect animals’ space and need for quiet. Stay back!

Please stay a minimum of 100 yards away from resting seals
. Like all marine mammals, they are protected from harassment by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Washington State law RCW 77.15.130 (a criminal misdemeanor, mandatory court appearance, punishable with up to 90 days in jail and up to $1000 fine).

Harbor seals gather in large groups this time of year at haul-outs (called rookeries during pupping season), where moms and pups find safety in numbers. Pups pay a terrible price for human disturbance. The seal pup shown above was found in 2012, starving on Cutts Island, along with two other emaciated pups and several dead ones. All had been abandoned by their mothers because boaters disrupted the seal colony on this small South Puget Sound island near Gig Harbor. Durning boating season, thousands of boats can be moored offshore at Cutts, disrupting this historic harbor seal haul-out.

A day of boating fun for people can be a death sentence for seal pups. When you are boating or kayaking, please stay far away from resting harbor seals.

In South Puget Sound, you might see a premature or lanugo pup on shore. Lanugos, like seal pup “Luigi” at Alki Beach (photo left), are identified by their long, wavy white fur which is typically shed in the womb. They do not have fully developed lungs and muscles and are likely to be abandoned in the wild.

Please contact the stranding network to respond to a lanugo pup.

Leave seal pups be - don’t touch, move or feed them.
If you are concerned about a pup, call the NOAA hotline @ 1-866-767-6114. To learn more about harbor seals and pups, visit Seal Sitters website here.

Every day is Earth Day - beach cleanup a success

On this stunningly beautiful morning, the wildlife of Puget Sound got a helping hand, as caring people from around the region removed dangerous trash from Alki Beach, surrounding sidewalks and streets.

Before volunteers dispersed for “Sentinels of the Sound” trash duty, Seal Sitters’ Robin Lindsey spoke briefly about the devastating effects debris and plastic pollution have on marine life. The crowd was then treated to some rules of beach etiquette and info about invertebrates from Seattle Aquarium Beach Naturalist Janice Mathisen (on the right with colleague Zoey Black).

Enthusiastically grabbing buckets, bags and “pluckers”, volunteers set out on their mission to pick up toxic trash. Kids and adults could be seen scouring the area over the next two hours, returning with piles of glass and plastic bottles, cans, clothing and plastic caps. A recent study showed that a shocking 90% of all birds have plastic in their stomachs. Volunteers also brought back bags loaded with deadly cigarette butts. Cigarette filters take 5 years to biodegrade; within an hour of coming into contact with water, they begin leaching toxins into soil and waterways, poisoning the food chain.

Thanks to the many people who took time out of their weekend to make a difference for wildlife! The fabulous Baker family drove all the way from Puyallup this morning to help keep marine life safe. Flipper hugs to the cool kids from West Seattle’s Pathfinder School who, after studying about plastics pollution this year, determinedly donned rubber gloves, too.

Along with the more obvious litter, brand new Seal Sitters volunteers Derek and daughters Laura and June (photo left) picked up minute pieces of plastic that animals mistake for food.

When you visit the beach, remember to stash some gloves and a garbage bag in your backpack. Every single piece of trash removed from our environment can truly have a positive impact and save wildlife from poisoning, injury and death. Every day is Earth Day.

"Sentinels of the Sound" beach cleanup to help marine life

Help keep marine life safe! On Saturday, June 4th, from 10am-12pm, come on down to Alki Beach and do your part to keep the sea free of dangerous debris. We will meet at the Statue of Liberty Plaza (Alki Ave SW and 61st Ave SW) in West Seattle. “Sentinels of the Sound” Beach Cleanup is co-sponsored by Seal Sitters MMSN and the Alki Community Council.

Before volunteers disperse to clean up the beach, there will be a brief talk on the devastating impact of trash and debris on marine life.

Did you know that an estimated 80% of marine debris originates from land? Or that 360 billion cigarette butts are discarded in the U.S. alone each year - all of them leaching toxic chemicals into the soil and waterways? At last year’s beach cleanup, volunteers picked up an estimated 9,000 butts from Alki Beach (and adjoining sidewalks and street) in just a few hours.

Did you know that derelict fishing gear and plastics injure and kill many thousands of marine mammals and seabirds annually? All of which can be prevented by careful - and proper - disposal.

For Seal Sitters, derelict fishing gear is a very up close and personal issue. Please visit our website to find out why and for more details about the cleanup. Bags will be provided, but please bring your own gloves and pickup sticks. RSVP is requested.

Learn more about our dangerous waters on Seal Sitters’ website.

Seal Sitters new volunteer training May 23rd

Join Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network! Volunteers are not only vital for the protection of seal pups and other marine mammals. We also perform a public service by providing education about marine life and our fragile marine ecosystem to local residents and visitors from around the world.

Seal Sitters MMSN holds several special trainings a year for those wanting to protect marine mammals along the shoreline of West Seattle and the Duwamish River.

We are a very active network and have volunteers who travel from around the area to participate. However, if you live out of the West Seattle area and would like to find a stranding network closer to where you live, click here.

*Please note:
Every stranding network requires their own unique training -
attending a Seal Sitters MMSN training does not qualify you to volunteer for networks in a differing location.

Unlike most marine mammal stranding networks, we encourage children to participate in Seal Sitters - supervised at all times, of course, by a parent or guardian. We are so proud of our amazing and dedicated volunteers who are on duty rain or shine - we hope you will join us!

A multi-media presentation will illustrate our educational work in the community and the unique challenges of protecting seals and other marine mammals in an urban environment. Included in the training is an overview of NOAA's West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network and biology and behavior of seals and other pinnipeds (due to time frame, supplementary sessions will include more marine mammals of Puget Sound).

MONDAY, MAY 23, 2016
6:30pm - 8:30pm (doors open at 6:15pm, training starts promptly at 6:30)
*please arrive early to receive paperwork

(*there is no church affiliation with Seal Sitters MMSN)
front meeting room
6115 SW Hinds St
West Seattle (map it here)

RSVP required to attend. (*please include full name and name/ages of children)

*PARENTS PLEASE NOTE: all children in attendance must be able to sit quietly through an approximate 2 hour training session with a short break.

For additional questions and info or to be placed on a contact list for future training opportunities, please email us.

Gray whale confirmed dead in Puget Sound

Yesterday, Seal Sitters volunteers again contributed to the efforts to monitor the struggling gray whale, which had been floating in Central and South Puget Sound for 15 days. The whale was unable to dive.

Based on a report to OrcaNet and from other members of the marine mammal stranding network, SSMMSN first responders sighted the gray at the entrance to Elliott Bay and tracked the emaciated whale’s movements throughout the afternoon, as it drifted slowly in the currents between West Seattle and Magnolia’s Elliott Bay Marina. Our observations led to a firm belief that the whale had died, as we could see no blows during our lengthy observation.

A number of pleasure craft and tour boats violated the Federal Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) by approaching the whale within mere yards. This, long before official confirmation of the animal’s death. The MMPA law requires a minimum distance of 100 yards from whales. Yesterday’s photos of those vessels in violation are being forwarded to NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement.

As the current drew the whale closer into the very busy shipping lane, it was narrowly missed being struck by tug boats towing barges, container ships and the Washington State Ferries.

Late in the afternoon, a US Coast Guard boat on the water confirmed that the whale was deceased. Because the flukes and pectoral fins are so low beneath the surface, they are not accessible at this time to secure a tow line and enable a necropsy.

Should you spy the whale, please continue to report sightings in a timely manner to OrcaNet’s email so that the stranding network is aware of the location.

If the animal is sighted along the West Seattle shoreline, please contact our hotline as well at 206-905-SEAL (7325).

This has truly been a team effort of the stranding network groups and the public of Puget Sound. Learn more about the work of NOAA’s West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network here.

UPDATE: MAY 12, 2016
A necropsy was performed by Cascadia Research with assistance from the Navy, WDFW, NOAA, and the Pt. Townsend Marine Science Center. Due to trauma or illness (as of yet undetermined), gases were trapped in the organs of the whale which prevented the almost 30 ft female juvenile from diving and foraging. The whale was emaciated. Tissue samples have been sent out for tests. For more info and photos, please click here.
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