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ribbon seal

Ribbon seal still in Northwest waters

          
The ribbon seal that has been sighted in Seattle (Duwamish Waterway - see related story) and Marysville was reported again yesterday in Steamboat Slough in Everett, WA. The animal was seen hauled out on a private dock in the slough and the property owners promptly called NOAA’s Northwest Marine Mammal Stranding Network. A team of biologists from NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center National Marine Mammal Laboratory and NOAA Fisheries Northwest Regional Office convened at the site. The team was able to handle the animal to conduct a basic health assessment with the assistance of Dr. Steve Johnson from PAWS Wildlife (view video).

The adult male weighed in at 166.5 lbs and measured 55 inches in length. These values are well within the average range of its age class. A small skin sample was collected for genetics analysis and the blood samples collected will be analyzed. This information is very valuable and will allow us to assess the overall health of the animal.

     
Ribbon seals normally inhabit the North Pacific Ocean, especially the Bering and Okhotsk Seas. They have also been observed in parts of the Arctic Ocean, including the Chukchi, easter Siberian and western Beaufort Seas. During the winter months, ribbon seals range throughout the North Pacific Ocean, but have been previously observed as far south as California. While this is a rare occurrence, the animal likely arrived here on its own and will hopefully make his way back to the Bering Sea soon. They are strongly associated with sea ice for mating, whelping pups and molting from mid-March through June. The rest of the year is spent at sea. Ribbon seals are deep diving seals and can dive to depths in excess of 2000 feet. They primarily feed on pollock and herring as well as some squid species.

We encourage the public to continue to report sightings of this animal to NOAA’s Marine Mammal Stranding Specialist, Kristin Wilkinson at 206-526-4747. View an online still image gallery of the ribbon seal and the health examination by researchers.

Rare arctic seal sighted in Seattle

     
NOAA and Seal Sitters MMSN are on high alert for a rare arctic ribbon seal which was spotted Wednesday resting on a dock in the Duwamish River. The seal is native to the Bering and Okhotsk Seas and parts of the Arctic Ocean, using ice flows for mating, giving birth, and molting. This animal’s presence in our waters is of concern to NOAA; however, the photos submitted seemed to indicate that the animal was in good health. Ribbon seals are considered a “species of concern”, which identifies species that are potentially at risk. There is no planned intervention if the animal is re-sighted, but instead he will be monitored closely by the stranding network. In 1962, a ribbon seal was reported near Morro Bay, California. Read more about ribbon seals here.

If you spot this distinct seal, please stay back and call Seal Sitters’ hotline @ 206-905-7325 or Kristin Wilkinson of NOAA @ 206-526-4747.
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