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harbor seal day

Seal Sitters reflects on another record-breaking year

2013 was a roller coaster year for Seal Sitters’ volunteers. Early in the year, we received a grant for an educational outreach project, Year of the Seal, which culminated with the installation of a bronze sculpture at Alki Beach in September. Additionally, it proved to be another record-breaking season for responses to marine mammals on the beaches of West Seattle. Volunteers donated thousands of hours to the very time-intensive endeavor of protecting seal pups on urban beaches while also navigating the sometimes murky waters of a public art project.

2013 was a record breaking season for seal pups on shore in West Seattle. Seal Sitters’ hotline operators fielded many hundreds of calls from all over the Puget Sound region (check back for updated stats on hotline calls). Harbor seal pupping season in South Puget Sound is late June - September, but our busiest months are September and October as pups leave the relative safety of rookeries and strike out on their own.

On July 19th we responded to a report of our first newborn pup of the season, a stillbirth on Harbor Island. Since late July to date in West Seattle, volunteers have logged over 163 responses to marine mammals on the beach, the large majority of which were seal pups, but a few also to harbor porpoise and sea lions. In the past 6 months, we have protected 66 positively identified pups ranging in age from a few days to a few months old (an increase from 51 ID’d pups in 2011’s record year) - a number of these pups hauled out repeatedly for days in a row. With a higher number of seal pups, we also responded to more dead pups, 24 (10 of whom were pups we had protected). Most disturbing was the disproportionate number of emaciated pups for the second year in a row.

A highlight of pupping season was the story of Ruby, a newborn seal pup who had been harassed by people and dogs on a Steilacoom beach and subsequently abandoned by her mom. Only a week or so old, the pup was transported to PAWS in Lynnwood for rehabilitation. Following a successful and lengthy rehab, she was released back to the wild at a harbor seal haul-out near Everett. Ruby appeared one day on shore in West Seattle with her distinctive red rehab tag attached to her flipper (photo right). Over the course of several months, volunteers monitored Ruby’s health as she foraged and rested at Jack Block Park, where she found a true friend in seal pup Buddy. Their friendship was heartwarming and thrilling for both volunteers and the public who observed them daily. Read about Ruby and Buddy here.

Why are there so many seal pups in West Seattle? That is, of course, difficult to answer. Perhaps our proximity to both Puget Sound and Elliott Bay waters with a varied food source. Certainly, it could it be, too, that we have made a refuge on shore for struggling pups so that they can get the rest they need. Our community has rallied around the protection of these small and vulnerable marine mammals. If a seal pup can feel safe on the beach and there is a food source nearby, that pup will continue to forage and return to the beach, gaining the strength necessary to survive that critical first year.

Seal Sitters received a third City of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods in-kind grant award this year. As a result, a high-visibility educational project was completed:

Year of the Seal. This educational outreach project’s goal was to educate the public about the dangers of marine pollution and its devastating impact on marine life.

• Sentinels of the Sound. A bronze sculpture by acclaimed Northwest artist Georgia Gerber was installed at Alki Beach, along with an informational plaque. View videos here.

• Harbor Seal Day. Over 300 people attended a sculpture dedication ceremony and educational outreach event held at the Alki Bathhouse on September 8th. Proclaimed Harbor Seal Day by Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and Washington Governor Jay Inslee, nine environmental groups had booths and educated the public about marine mammals, marine debris and pollution.

Passionate volunteers like Christine, Nina and Connie donated thousands of hours of educational outreach on the beaches and at events, working the hotline and scheduling volunteers. Thousands of Share the Shore pocket brochures were distributed.
• We participated in a number of street fairs and events, educating many hundreds of people about marine mammals, marine pollution and NOAA’s NW stranding network.
• Seal Sitters co-sponsored a beach cleanup with the Alki Community Council and Seattle Parks and Recreation, receiving media coverage and raising awareness about marine debris.
• Volunteers made presentations at schools; area children took the pledge as Seal Ambassadors to protect the marine environment and received certificates.
• 129 new volunteers were trained in 2013.

• KCTS-9 documentary filmmaker Katie Campbell did a feature segment on Seal Sitters which continues to air regularly on the PBS station. The segment centered on last year’s survival struggles of seal pups on our West Seattle shores, the impact of toxins on marine mammals and funding cuts for research.
• Print, tv and internet media kept Seal Sitters’ work in the news.
• Seal Sitters young volunteers were featured in a Scholastic Magazine cover story. Our kids rock!

Thanks to all our amazing volunteers and to the community for making this such a successful year. If you’d like to help support Seal Sitters’ work with a donation, please click here. We receive no funding for our on-going expenses and even the smallest amount helps defray the cost of our dedicated hotline, websites, gas and stranding and educational supplies. We wish everyone a peaceful and happy new year!

Harbor Seal Day video now online

“Harbor Seal Day” held on September 8th was a day of celebration and the culmination of Seal Sitters’ Year of the Seal: Sentinels of the Sound project. In case you could not attend the dedication event for Georgia Gerber’s beautiful bronze sculpture “Sentinels of the Sound”, watch the video below for the complete ceremony. Special thanks to John Larson and Melinda Simon of Gypsy Soul Productions for videotaping the event!

Art and Story contest winners honored at Harbor Seal Day

Young artists and writers who entered Seal Sitters’ Art and Story contest were recognized at Sunday’s “Harbor Seal Day” event. All entries were displayed inside the Bathhouse.

A very special thanks goes to volunteer Lynn Shimamoto, an architectural illustrator by profession, who worked so hard to get art submissions. She set up art tables next to our booth at summer educational outreach events, teaching kids about seal biology and behavior as they created vivid illustrations. Kudos to Lynn - volunteer extraordinaire!

Every child was an “Honorable Mention” winner, but prizes were awarded for standout art entries as judged by Diane Venti, owner of Alki Arts Gallery, Lezlie Jane, well-known West Seattle artist, and Seal Sitters’ Candace Sullivan.

1st Place Ruby Zorzella (Kindergarten), winner of a Family Fun pack donated by Woodland Park Zoo
2nd Place Jackson Neumann (Kindergarten), winner of 2 hours studio time at Young at Art
3rd Place Owen Turcotte (2nd grade), winner of certificate for a free pizza from Slices
1st Runner-up Siena Tatro, (1st grade), winner of Leopard and Silkie and Seal Pup Rescue books (MacMillan Publishing)
2nd Runner-up Josie Riemer (1st grade), winner of Leopard and Silkie and Seal Pup rescue books

1st Place Emilee Owen (5th grade), winner of admission for 4 donated by Seattle Aquarium
2nd Place Eloise Van Matre (4th Grade), winner 2 hours studio time at Young at Art
3rd Place Lily Clark (3rd Grade), winner of certificate for free pizza from Slices
1st Runner-up Hope Kuchan (4th Grade), winner of tie-dye kit from Northwest Art and Frame
2nd Runner-up Fay Turcotte (3rd Grade), winner of Shrinky-Dinks book from Northwest Art and Frame

1st Place Stella Zorzella (3rd Grade), winner of admission for 4 donated by Seattle Aquarium
2nd Place Theo Schill, winner of metalic marker set from Seal Sitters
3rd Place Dahlia Kristiansson (1st Grade), activity book/colored pencils, Northwest Art and Frame

Many thanks to nature writer Brenda Peterson and her students for judging the Story contest submissions and to Diane and Lezlie for their time and expertise to judge the art entries.

To ensure that every child received a prize for entering the contest, WDFW Marine Mammal Investigations Unit donated numerous beautiful posters depicting marine life.

Huge thanks to the Seattle Aquarium, Woodland Park Zoo, Northwest Art and Frame, Slices, Young at Art, MacMillan Publishing Group (Christy Ottaviano Books) and WDFW for generously donating prizes to these talented kids!

Check back for a photo gallery of highlighted artwork and winning stories.

"Harbor Seal Day" a resounding success and helps raise awareness

An estimated 300 people took part in the festivities on “Harbor Seal Day” Sunday afternoon, as Seal Sitters hosted an event celebrating the dedication of Georgia Gerber’s “Sentinels of the Sound” sculpture of a harbor seal mom and pup.

The Alki Bathhouse was filled to the brim with educational exhibits and children creating jellyfish, seal puppets and other cool sea creatures. Shown at right is one of Seal Sitters’ first responders and talented artist Lynn Shimamoto (with her 6 year old grandaughter) in the puppet show booth she created for kids to enjoy. Just outside, lots of folks had fun posing for photos, poking their heads through the painted underwater scene (check back for a gallery of submitted photos - email your photo of the puppet show or underwater scene here).

For Art and Story contest winners and the great donated prizes the kids won, please click here.

Many, many hours were devoted to the day’s event and many thanks to all of the awesome volunteers who helped out in the weeks before the event, designing posters and displays, craft projects for children, posting flyers and getting word out to the media. And to those who helped out Sunday, picking up the many specialty cakes, setting up (and breaking down) chairs, stages, tables, artwork, helping exhibitors - all the tasks that go into pulling off a major event. Everyone who helped deserves huge kudos! Core team members who contributed countless hours to “Harbor Seal Day” event planning were JoDean Edelheit, David and Eilene Hutchinson, Lynn Shimamoto, Lars Halstrom, Larry Carpenter, Karin Cumming, Candace Sullivan and Robin Lindsey.

Special thanks as well to Chas Redmond and Tony Fragada who donated their time to provide professional sound for the event.

Our outstanding exhibitors included the WA Department of Fish and Wildlife Marine Mammal Investigations, Seattle Aquarium, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, The Whale Trail, NOAA Marine Debris Division, Tox-ick, NOAA Marine Mammal Stranding Network and Sno-King Marine Mammal Response, PAWS Wildlife Center (with a fascinating inside look at seal pup rehabilitation), Killer Whale Tales, Soundside Marinelife Rescue. Huge thanks to all of you who donated your Sunday afternoon to help us celebrate and educate the public! So many people remarked how wonderful the exhibits were and how much information they gleaned from those staffing the tables.

Local businesses generously donated great prizes to help Seal Sitters raise money to fund our on-going operating expenses, including dedicated hotline costs, webhosting fees, and stranding and educational materials. Donors included Alki Kayak, Mountain to Sound Outfitters, Phoenecia Restaurant, NW Art and Frame, Bakery Nouveau, Sunfish Seafood Restaurant and Saigon Boat Cafe.

Spud Fish and Chips, Bamboo Bar and Grill, Subway on Alki and Hotwire Coffee ran special promotions to benefit Seal Sitters.

QFC Bakery on 42nd Ave SW and Baked Seattle donated specialty cakes for the event. West Seattle Thriftway and Seattle Costco donated gift cards used for food for volunteers and exhibitors. Saigon Boat Cafe provided delicious sandwiches for hungry volunteers, too. Starbucks on Alki donated coffee to keep us going for the day.

Great prizes were donated to the winners of the children’s Art & Story contest (see post here) by The Seattle Aquarium, Woodland Park Zoo, Northwest Art and Frame, Slices, Young at Art, and MacMillan Publishing Group ( Leopard and Silkie and Seal Pup Rescue).

Master of Ceremonies Jim Dever (of Evening Magazine fame) was the perfect “host” for our dedication ceremony. His witty interlude with young Seal Sitters was a highlight of the program. Kid vols Etienne, Elizabeth and Louisa answered questions with great poise and authority.

We were honored to have Ken Workman (great-great-great-great grandson of Chief Sealth) of the Duwamish give a welcoming message. National Geographic author and co-founder of Seal Sitters Brenda Peterson gave an engaging overview of our work. Many thanks to Department of Neighborhoods’ Bernie Matsuno and State Representative Joe Fitzgibbon for respectively reading Mayor McGinn and Governor Jay Inslee’s “Harbor Seal Day” proclamations.

Georgia’s stunning work, “Sentinels of the Sound”, will grace Alki Beach for many, many years to come and raise public awareness of the need to share the shore with all wildlife. We cannot begin to express our gratitude.

Click here to download the “Harbor Seal Day” Program listing all participants and acknowledgements.

Both the West Seattle Herald and the West Seattle Blog gave the event generous coverage in weeks leading up to and day of the event. Thanks to Patrick Robinson (WS Herald) and Tracy Record (WS Blog) for your on-going support! Please visit their links below.

West Seattle Herald (article and slideshow)

West Seattle Blog (photos and video)

Countdown to "Harbor Seal Day" - win great raffle prizes!

Seal Sitters volunteers are busy tying up loose ends for tomorrow afternoon’s highly anticipated public event, “Harbor Seal Day”, at the Alki Bathhouse. Cakes have been picked up, videos tweaked, programs are printed. It will be a busy morning as volunteers will be at the sculpture site early, sweeping the installation and dusting the “Sentinels of the Sound”. The sculpture dedication ceremony will be held at 1:30.

The culmination of our “Year of the Seal” educational outreach project, the Bathhouse will be open from 1-4pm and will be filled with marine-related environmental groups.There will be crafts for kids - even a puppet show booth. Groove to the smooth sounds of “Seals Love Jazz Quintet”, led by Sno-King Marine Mammal Response’s very own lead investigator, Rachel Mayer.

Local businesses have donated some great raffle prizes, among those are restaurant gift certificates and a sunset kayak tour for 2 by Alki Kayak. Bamboo Bar and Grill, Spud Fish and Chips and Subway along Alki Ave are having food promotions tomorrow (Spud’s special is today AND tomorrow) and will be making donations to Seal Sitters based on sales. For a list of the super raffle prizes (tickets only $1) and promotions, click here.

We hope to see you there!

WA Governor Inslee declares September 8th "Harbor Seal Day"

At the request of Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network, recently elected Governor Jay Inslee has proclaimed Sunday, September 8th “Harbor Seal Day”. Included in the proclamation is the message to all Washington residents across our state to join Governor Inslee and help keep our waters free of trash and toxins, and to “share the shore” with harbor seals and all wildlife.

Please help us celebrate “Harbor Seal Day” this Sunday afternoon - meet “Sentinels of the Sound” sculpture artist Georgia Gerber and visit the educational exhibits by 10 marine-related organizations in the Alki Bathhouse. There will be kids’ activities, music and cake as well!

Thank you so much, Governor Inslee! We appreciate your commitment to restore the health of Puget Sound and the marine life that calls it “home”.

Read the full proclamation here.

Read more about Seal Sitters’ “Year of the Seal: Sentinels of the Sound” year-long educational outreach project here.

Buy a chowder this weekend and help seal pup Spud's buds

     Seal Sitters Counter Card
In 2007, a tiny seal pup flopped ashore on Alki Beach almost directly across from Spud Fish and Chips (2666 Alki Ave SW). Concerned residents banded together to protect this vulnerable pup and nicknamed him Spud. This loosely formed group grew to be known as Seal Sitters.

Now a full-fledged marine mammal stranding network with many operating expenses, Spud Fish and Chips on Alki is helping Seal Sitters continue to help new generations of seal pups.

The restaurant is offering a promotion that will donate $1 for every chowder purchase this weekend to celebrate our “Harbor Seal Day” educational event and sculpture dedication. Spread the word to friends and family to chow down on some delicious chowder. Thanks so much to Spud Fish and Chips!

Businesses lend a hand to help Seal Sitters help marine mammals

Seal Sitters MMSN wants to thank the new Alki Subway shop (2758 Alki Ave SW) and Bamboo Bar and Grill (2806 Alki Ave SW) for special promotions on “Harbor Seal Day”, September 8th, to help raise funds for our operating expenses!
Hotwire Coffee (4410 California Ave SW) is offering an on-going specialty “Seal Sitters Mocha” that continues to raise donations. Thank you, Lora.
Special thanks to volunteers Chris, JoDean and Lars who worked to secure these promotions. See details below.

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Sentinels of the Sound sculpture finally hauls out on Alki Beach

Early Thursday morning, prominent NW sculptor Georgia Gerber, Randy Hudson (husband and fellow artist) and Virginia Keck (decades-long assistant) made the long trek from Whidbey Island with the “Sentinels of the Sound” sculpture carefully secured in the back of their pickup. Arriving at Alki Beach at 6:30am, they were met by several Seal Sitters volunteers, eager to help with the installation of the long-awaited sculpture.

Several hours later, after precise measurements and boring of holes, the sculpture was bolted and cemented into place onto the rock especially designed to support it, courtesy of the artistry of Turnstone Construction. The work is the culmination of Seal Sitters’ Year of the Seal educational outreach project.

4-year-old Max was the very first person to pose for a photo op with the newly installed piece - and a steady stream of admirers, young and old, has followed suit throughout the weekend.

A dedication ceremony will take place on “Harbor Seal Day”, September 8th at 1:30 at the installation site just north of the Alki Bathhouse (2701 Alki Ave SW). The public will have an opportunity to meet and thank Georgia for this stunning work of art. The Bathhouse will be open from 1-4pm, featuring environmental groups and children’s activities.

Check back for a video of the installation of the sculpture.

Kids' Art and Story contest deadline extended

In order to allow more children to participate, the deadline for Seal Sitters’ Art and Story contest deadline has been extended to August 25th. Prizes will be awarded on Sunday afternoon, September 8th at our “Harbor Seal Day” sculpture dedication and educational outreach event at Alki Beach. All entries will be on display at the Alki Bathhouse. Read more about the contest and rules here.

In addition to educational outreach booths for both adults and children, there will be activities for kids at Harbor Seal Day, including face painting, a puppet show booth and art crafts.

"Sentinels of the Sound" sculpture nears completion

At her studio on Whidbey Island, artist Georgia Gerber is putting the finishing touches on Seal Sitters’ commissioned bronze sculpture of a harbor seal mom and pup. Due for installation mid-late August, “Sentinels of the Sound” has been welded and burnished and only awaits a patina finish and a new home at Alki Beach. The natural rock setting near the Alki Bathhouse has already been completed by Turnstone Construction.

Join us for the dedication of the sculpture and educational event on “Harbor Seal Day”, Sunday, September 8th from 1-4pm. The artwork is the centerpiece of our Year of the Seal community outreach project.

Seattle Mayor McGinn declares September 8 "Harbor Seal Day"

At the request of Seal Sitters MMSN, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn has declared September 8th “Harbor Seal Day”. Included in the proclamation is the text:

WHEREAS, Harbor seals are critical to our marine environment because they do not migrate and are considered by biologists to be an indicator species of the health of our waters; and

WHEREAS, Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network, the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation, and the West Seattle community have joined together to place a seal mom and pup sculpture, “Sentinels of the Sound,” on Alki Beach; and

WHEREAS, the unveiling of this sculpture will raise public awareness of the need to “share the shore” with wildlife, protect marine mammals, and reduce pollution in our marine environment,

NOW, therefore, I Mike McGinn, Mayor of the City of Seattle, do hereby proclaim September 8, 2013 to be HARBOR SEAL DAY

View the full proclamation here. Thanks so much to the Mayor for helping to raise awareness about our fragile marine ecosystem! Please join us on “Harbor Seal Day” for our sculpture dedication and educational outreach event, Sunday September 8th from 1-4pm at the Alki Bathhouse site.

Call to kids to enter art and story contest

UPDATE: Deadline for entries has been extended to August 25th.

Seal Sitters, as part of our Year of the Seal project, is reaching out to children, encouraging them to become involved in protecting marine mammals and help keep our waters free of trash.

In celebration of the “Sentinels of the Sound” sculpture, we are sponsoring an art and story contest, open to all Seattle-area children grades K-5. We ask kids to imagine, through words and/or art media, the story of seal pup Spud (the name of our very first pup that came ashore in 2007), depicted in the sculpture with his mom (be on the lookout for the upcoming contest to name the mother seal). Ideas can include: Where did Spud and his mom travel from? What do they see swimming together? What adventures has Spud had along the way? Where does Spud sleep? Anything about seal pups that might spark a child’s imagination is perfect for this contest! Too young to write? While we look forward to seeing written entries in a kid’s handwriting, stories can be transcribed by an adult - we want everyone to be able to weave tales about Spud and his mom! For photos of the sculpture, click here.

Written stories will be judged by a panel of writers led by noted National Geographic author (and Seal Sitters co-founder) Brenda Peterson. The artwork will be judged by a panel of artists.

All entries will be displayed at our “Harbor Seal Day” celebration and dedication on Sunday, September 8th from 1-4pm at the Alki Bathhouse. Winners will be recognized at the event and prizes awarded. Selected entries will also be displayed on our websites.

Entries for the contest must be received by August 25th. Please read the size limitations and other rules here. Drop off locations for entries are Alki Mail and Dispatch, Alki Arts (Alki beach location) and NW Art and Frame (4733 California Ave Sw). Thanks so much to these generous businesses for participating! Entries can also be mailed to: Seal Sitters, 4701 SW Admiral Way #224, Seattle, 98116. Email us if you have any questions.

We look forward to seeing what creative visions our kids have!

Sentinels of the Sound sculpture cast and welded

Seal Sitters is excited to report that the Georgia Gerber commissioned sculpture has moved one step closer to completion at her studio on Whidbey Island. The bronze sections of the harbor seal mom and pup were welded together on Wednesday. The work will be installed in mid to late-August near the Alki Bathhouse.

A celebration event will be held on Sunday, September 8th, “Harbor Seal Day”, from 1-4pm with music, activities for children, environmental exhibitors and a ribbon cutting and short dedication ceremony. The “Sentinels of the Sound” sculpture is the centerpiece of Seal Sitters’ Year of the Seal educational project designed to raise awareness about our fragile marine ecosystem.

Georgia (left) and long-time studio assistant Virginia Keck pose with the sculpture after a long day of fitting and welding pieces into place. The next step in the time-consuming process is to fill the seams, do a final burnish and then apply a patina to the bronze. As Georgia says, the sculpture will develop its own unique finish over the years from all the love pats it will receive from the public.

Site preparation and fabrication by Turnstone Construction will begin early on Monday, July 8th, for approximately 7 - 10 days. Please check back for updates as the site begins to take shape.

Pieces come together for Year of the Seal educational project

The commissioned Georgia Gerber sculpture of a harbor seal mom and pup reached an important milestone recently - liquid bronze was poured into more than a dozen molds that will make up the life-size piece to reside at Alki Beach.

The lost wax process that has been used by sculptors for thousands of years (the oldest sample is dated 5, 000 years ago from India) is a complex and time intensive endeavor. Shown here is the face of the seal pup after it had been removed from its plaster cast, pressure washed and edges burnished by a studio assistant. The many pieces are to be assembled and welded together next week and will replicate the original clay forms created by the artist. We will be posting updates as each step is completed.

Turnstone Construction (renowned for exhibits in many zoos and facilities, including the Woodland Park Zoo penguin exhibit) will be fabricating a natural rock formation at the sculpture site next to the Bathhouse. Seal Sitters is thrilled that artists of the stature of both Georgia and Turnstone are participating in this project. And, of course, without the support of the West Seattle community, Department of Neighborhoods and Seattle Parks our Year of the Seal: Sentinels of the Sound educational outreach project could not have been realized. The sculpture will be dedicated at Seal Sitters’ Harbor Seal Day event on September 8th.
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