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Help save marine mammals from deadly sonar

The National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) is currently considering granting a permit to the US Navy for the testing and training of high-powered explosives and sonar over the next 5 years. These tests will cause hearing loss, injury and death to whales, dolphins and other marine mammals. NRDC (National Resources Defense Council), one of the most effective environmental action groups, reports:

The Navy's own Environmental Review concedes that its plan would harass, injure or kill marine mammals more than 31 million times in the ocean waters off the East Coast, Southern California, Hawaii and the Gulf states.

That includes millions of cases of temporary hearing loss, more than 5,000 serious injuries and more than 1,000 deaths -- a toll three times higher than the impacts of any previous Navy plan.

Help stop this reckless plan. Please sign NRDC’s online petition by March 11, 2013, and have your voice heard by NMFS, the agency in charge of protecting marine mammals.

Watch NRDC’s powerful video about the devastating effects of sonar on marine mammals here.

Read author and Seal Sitters founder Brenda Peterson’s Huffington Post Killing with Sound: What Happens When the Whales Stop Singing

Hoover the sea lion creates a stir at boat launch

A male California sea lion decided the wooden pier at Don Armeni boat launch was a handy spot to scatch and nap in the sun on Monday afternoon. On a routine cruise through the boat launch area looking for seal pups (a common spot for pups to come ashore), responders were surprised instead to see an estimated 600 lb pinniped. They quicked “sealed” off the pier with tape and barricades, warning that sea lions are mobile on land and can be dangerous if approached.

The sea lion entertained onlookers as he did some pinniped yoga stretches, squirming and scratching his back on the wooden dock. The photo shows the distinct forehead, known as a sagittal crest, of a mature male California sea lion. He returned to Elliott Bay shortly after 5pm. Because sea lions do not have distinct markings (other than scars, tags or brands), we have not yet identified if this is the same male who rested on the opposite ramp in December. If it is, he has packed on some weight which is a good thing! California sea lions regularly haul out on the two buoys in Elliott Bay - occasionally, Steller sea lions can be seen there, too.

Seal pups still using West Seattle shoreline

Weaned harbor seal pups are still hauling out on West Seattle beaches. The protected, inaccessible beach at Jack Block Park has a couple of pups that use it with regularity. Yesterday, the hotline rang with reports of a pup resting directly below the observation deck. The pup, nicknamed Cinnamon, was being monitored throughout the day by responders. However, due to so many calls from the public we dispatched a few volunteers to hang out at the Park and talk to folks curious about the chubby pup.

Cinnamon returned to Elliott Bay around 5pm in the evening. She was back on shore early this morning, but returned to the water about 7am - perhaps off to a breakfast buffet of 3-spined stickleback and squid.

We suspect Spencer, who spent 4 days resting along the length of Alki Avenue recently under the watchful eye of Seal Sitters volunteers, has been coming ashore at night to rest. Our early morning first responder has seen a pup return to the water between 6 and 6:30 several mornings and found seal tracks in the sand another morning at the same location. The responder has not been able to get an id photo, so we can’t confirm the pup is indeed Spencer.

Ruby, the rehabilitated pup, hasn’t been seen for about a week, but that doesn’t mean the pup with the bright red flipper tag isn’t still in our area. The last time we sighted her dozing at Jack Block, she had packed on some blubber which made us all very happy.

New volunteer training Saturday, March 9th

Seal Sitters will be holding a special training for those wanting to protect marine mammals along the shoreline of West Seattle and the Duwamish River. 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 (like JoDean at left) 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 Northwest 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). We will also be discussing our upcoming educational outreach project, Year of the Seal, culminated with the installation of a sculpture of a harbor seal mom and pup at Alki Beach. A followup on-the-beach session will be scheduled in the weeks to come.

There will be no training sessions during the height of pupping season (late summer - fall), due to time constraints on volunteers. However, there will be another training opportunity in May if you cannot attend this date. For additional questions and info or to be placed on a contact list for future training opportunities, please email us.

When: Saturday, March 9, 2013
Time: 10am-12pm
Where: Alki Congregational United Church, 6115 SW Hinds St (map it)

We have reached capacity for the training thanks to a tremendous response from potential volunteers.
To be placed on a contact list for future training opportunities, please email us.

Busy day along Alki for seal pups

Seal Sitters responded to hotline reports of two seal pups early this morning - one at the north end of Alki Beach and another a few minutes later of a pup on the beach steps across the street from Bamboo restaurant. The first pup was scared into the water before our responder could confirm if it was Spencer; however, we suspect it may have been.

Below the thankfully deserted promenade, our responder located the second pup a few steps up from the water. Despite very windy conditions, she was able to establish a tape perimeter on the sidewalk above the exotic, dark-coated pup so that no one could enter the steps leading to the beach, scaring him away. The pup had apparently hauled out on the steps at high tide last night.

Volunteers watched over the pup throughout the day as he settled into a deep slumber. Nicknamed JoJo by young sisters Samantha and Katelyn (hopefully, future Seal Sitters) from Sammamish who were visiting the beach with their dad, the pup finally returned to the Sound around 2pm.

A third unidentified pup rested on the offshore platform for most of the day.

Spencer's haulout streak ends at four days

Early yesterday morning, our first responder was out doing beach “sweeps” looking for seal pup Spencer. She found him alert and on shore at the north end of Alki Beach. True to form, for the fourth day in a row he had hauled out at high tide, but was up quite close to the walkway.

Among the people that gathered as he wriggled ashore was a woman who offered our responder a hand toting cones and stakes. We can’t thank her enough for her help. Once again, off leash dogs were an issue at Alki and we gave Spencer a generous boundary on the beach.

Volunteers watched over the pup in shifts and talked to many curious and delighted people, letting them peer through the spotting scope for an even closer look and distributing informational pamphlets. Bald eagles were abundant and acrobatic overhead, entertaining volunteers as the pup zonked out for a snooze. A river otter swam leisurely by. On the sidewalk, leashed dogs of every size and shape received pats and rubs while owners stopped to learn about Spencer.

The seal pup was still sleeping on the sand long after darkness fell, but had moved down nearer the water’s edge. He was gone when we checked at 10pm last night.

Spencer is most definitely looking too thin. We hope this extended rest and hospitality shown by West Seattle residents and visitors will give him a boost in energy to forage for food. We did not see him on shore all day today. However, there was a small, white pup on the offshore platform surrounded by cormorants. Perhaps it was Spencer sleeping at that infinitely safer location.

Ruby, the rehabilitated pup from south of Tacoma, is still using the Jack Block Park area. She was sighted napping on the protected beach the other morning. Ruby has put on weight since we first spotted her last month. Read about Ruby here.

Seal pup Spencer returns for a snooze

The hotline received a call about a seal pup on the beach yesterday afternoon, but the location was not clear. Our responders searched the various locations we believed the pup might be, but could not find the pup. About an hour later, our responders got a tip from someone about a seal on the beach at the north end of Harbor Avenue.

A crowd of people had gathered on the sea wall, watching the pup from above. The imminent concern for safety of the pup was the open beach where there were people and off leash dogs. We want to thank the nice couple and daughter Lilah, recently relocated from Bainbridge, for moving a bit further back so we could get a tape established on the beach. The area above on the sea wall was taped off so that the seal could rest relatively undisturbed.

The pup was positively identified through markings comparison as Spencer who had spent the two previous days resting on the sandy stretch of Alki just north of the bathhouse. Spencer was still sleeping after dark.

It is helpful for our hotline operators and responders that location information be as precise as possible to save time and get pups protected sooner than later. If there is a street address please note that. Also, many people get confused as to whether an address is on Harbor Avenue or Alki. Please note if you can look across the water to the city skyline (Harbor Ave) or Olympic Mountains (Alki Ave). That saves our responder time and frustration trying to quickly locate an animal before being scared back into the water. Seal Sitters so appreciates the help of the public!

Seal pup feels the blubber love on Valentine's Day

Seal pup Spencer came back ashore this gray and misty Valentine’s Day morning. Based on an intuition, volunteers left Wednesday night’s perimeter intact in anticipation that he might return to the same spot with the early morning high tide. When our responder checked the beach, Spencer was snoozing soundly within the boundary of his yellow tape crib - one very smart pup. We were happy to know he felt safe and secure enough to return to this usually busy stretch of beach.

Scheduler JoDean checked our “doodle” calendar to see what volunteers had entered time for the early shift and began making calls. Our responder sent out an APB “Seal on the beach now - can you help” from her iPhone. Diehard volunteer Lynn S arrived on the scene. Scheduled to fly out to Santa Fe on a skiing trip, she said her husband offered to book a later flight if she wanted to watch over the seal pup first. Thankfully, she still made her 10:30 am departure. Second up was Arden who, despite a newly-broken ankle, showed up with her scooter, determined to help protect Spencer. We eventually convinced Arden to go home and rest. Next, Raiana arrived with a full-blown cold, prepared to stand in the rain and talk to passersby. Despite efforts to send her back home, she insisted she was sticking around for this sweet little pup.

And so it went throughout the day into the evening with more dedicated volunteers spreading the blubber love. Super-couple David and Eilene waited until Spencer returned to the Sound about 6:15pm, then spent the early part of their valentine’s evening moving in the perimeter so that the fire pits could be used by the public tonight. Our responder will be down at sunrise tomorrow to check the beach and move the tape back if Spencer has returned.

Thanks to all of our seal-lovin’ vols who helped today and come out year-round, rain or shine, to keep marine mammals safe. You are a true Valentine’s gift!

Rough seas bring tired seal pup ashore to rest

After a very windy night and stormy seas, the hotline received a call about 8 am yesterday morning about a seal pup resting on Alki’s sandy beach. Our responder found a very jittery pup at the high tide debris line.

Because the pup was so skittish, instead of pounding stakes into the sand, she attached tape to pieces of driftwood and laid the “Protected Marine Mammal” tape along the sand, creating a virtual barrier around the pup. Before she could finish the perimeter, a woman entered the beach with an off leash dog, headed straight for the seal. The woman quickly tried to gain control of her excited dog, but it was probably a full five minutes before she could get the animal leashed. Thankfully, the activity didn’t scare the seal pup back into the Sound.

After the pup settled down and felt safe, volunteers strengthened the barrier with sandwich boards, stakes and cones. Volunteers talked with the public who peered through a scope for a closer view of the pup, nicknamed Spencer by a child. Spencer relaxed and recharged until about 7:00 pm last evening when he returned to the Sound at high tide - a good, long rest. Thanks to volunteer scheduler JoDean and all the volunteers who kept Spencer safe!

Peaceful, easy feeling for West Seattle seals

We continue to have a number of seals relaxing at the Port of Seattle’s Jack Block Park. Each morning with regularity, one can see anywhere from 2-9 seals of all ages hauled out on the docks and beaches there. It is testament to the combined efforts of Seal Sitters volunteers and a very respectful public that the seals are remaining throughout the day, dependent on tidal action. In years past, seals who had rested on the old abandoned dock overnight would hastily return to the water at daylight with any human (or canine) activity. This year, however, they seem more secure - perhaps because the public is aware that this rest is so vital to their survival. Seal Sitters has posted signs that seals have excellent hearing and to please observe quietly. While they are certainly a species at the top of the food chain, they are also prey animals and, as such, are terribly wary and skittish.

Rehab Ruby (see related posts) was on the open beach early Sunday morning and yet another pup was found resting there yesterday. Our responder immediately closed the beach to protect the pup. Due to beach erosion, Port maintenance workers moved the entrance to the public beach back closer to the parking lot. Now, however, when one enters the beach, it is not possible to see if a seal is resting there. Please be extra cautious when entering - or, even better, take the extra minute and scan the beach from behind the railing closer to the pier before entering. Since the Park is closed at night, it appears that pups are coming ashore there to sleep and sometimes are still resting when the Park reopens early the next morning.

Please be sure to call our hotline @ 206-905-7325 (SEAL) if you see a pup on the public-accessible beach.
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