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Seal Sitters awarded matching fund grant

Seal Sitters is elated to announce that we have been awarded a Department of Neighborhood (DON) grant for our proposed educational outreach project, 2013: The Year of the Seal. The Neighborhood Matching Fund program awards are “matched” by volunteer labor, donated materials, donated professional services or cash. Seal Sitters volunteers will be donating many, many hours to this project, far exceeding the required match in volunteer hours, but will need to fundraise additional monies. Community involvement and mobilization will include art and essay participation by local students, culminated with the installation of a bronze sculpture of a mother seal and pup.

The most abundant marine mammals in Puget Sound, harbor seals are the ones the general public is most likely to encounter on our shores. Seal Sitters uses the image of a harbor seal pup as the “ambassador” for the marine life of Elliott Bay and Puget Sound. Harbor seals do not migrate and are year-round residents of our Salish Sea. They are considered by biologists to be an indicator species of the health of our waters. In fact, a 1999 study showed that the harbor seals of South Puget Sound were 7 times more polluted than those in Canada’s nearby Strait of Georgia (read more about the effects of marine pollution on our website). We, therefore, consider this species to represent the concerns we all have for preserving our natural world.

This outreach project will serve to remind us that ours is a fragile ecosystem. It will raise community consciousness about the importance of protecting our marine environment - and that of all marine life, including shorebirds, that call Puget Sound home. It will provide a unique educational message that our urban shores are home to many other species - and a reminder to “Share the Shore” with wildlife.

This will be the third DON grant awarded to Seal Sitters for educational outreach projects, including a public service announcement, street banners which are displayed along Alki Avenue during pupping season and informational beach signage. Read about these earlier accomplishments here. Thanks to DON for such amazing support and belief in our projects.

None of the funds from these matching fund grants cover Seal Sitters’ operating expenses. We receive no funding from NOAA, the State or the City of Seattle for our on-going expenses, such as dedicated hotline, web and blog costs, gas for first responders and stranding, training and educational materials. If you would like to donate to help defray these costs, please click here.

Seal Sitters is currently in conversations with Seattle Parks regarding details of the project. We should be able to give a full report on the project in the next couple of weeks.

Wind and rain can't dampen volunteers' spirits

     
The latest wave of hard rain and gusting winds can’t deter Seal Sitters volunteers from our mission of protecting marine mammals. Each day, rain or shine, we’re out looking for the adult harbor seal, dubbed the Captain, to ensure that when he comes ashore, he will not be disturbed. With the exception of a couple of nights, he has chosen the same beach to rest since November 3rd, when some students from UW called the hotline with a report. The three young women, out on a late evening stroll, had stopped to read one of our seal informational beach signs when they happened to look to the beach on their left. Lo and behold, a seal was resting there. One of the students immediately called the hotline number which she had just entered into her cell phone.

Soaked volunteers have been pounding stakes and stretching tape in torrential rain the past several evenings as a major storm has swept into South Puget Sound. Last evening and late into the night, dedicated volunteers checked the beach to see if the Captain had hauled out, but as of 11pm he had not. He may have decided to move on or chose to ride out the storm in the water, rather than be battered by wind and rain on shore. We will continue to monitor the area until we are sure he has abandoned this chosen haulout.

Late Saturday afternoon, Captain came ashore as darkness fell. A weak bit of light filtered through the rain clouds, enabling us to grab some video with a long lens and camera which was monitored remotely. We have had limited ability to get health assessment photos due to the fact that it is usually too dark by the time he hauls out. Captain is very alert to the noise of sidewalk passersby and busy street traffic and bus stop just above the small beach where he tries to rest. He does look thinner than we would like, but we have not observed any real health issues. Adult harbor seals can weigh up to 300 lbs., reaching lengths from 5-6 feet. Adult males are slightly larger than females. It has truly been a treat to protect this beautiful seal.

Share the Shore banners installed along Alki Beach

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Seattle Parks employees Dan and Rudy (shown here) installed Seal Sitters’ Share the Shore banners on street poles along Alki Beach on Wednesday. The banners are the result of an in-kind Department of Neighborhoods grant we secured in 2011. Read more about the banners and artist here.

The banners serve as a reminder that September and October are the height of harbor seal pupping season in South Puget Sound - and that it is not uncommon to encounter a resting pup on the beach.

The 10 banners are the culmination of a Seal Sitters’ educational outreach project that included the installation of informational signage about seals and seal pups in locations across West Seattle in 2010 and 2011. NOAA has extended that beach signage across the region. Read more here.

Huge thanks to Seattle Parks for hanging the banners and helping to make this project possible. And thanks to volunteers David and Larry for coordinating the installation.

NOAA extends Seal Sitters' signage project region-wide

     
Seal Sitters’ informational beach signage about harbor seal pups has been extended throughout the region thanks to Kristin Wilkinson of NOAA. As Kristin states, “The signage project is a very important part of the Northwest Marine Mammal Stranding Network. Our goal is to educate the public about marine mammals in the area, what their normal behavior is, and who to contact if they come across a stranded animal on the beach.” Seventeen signs are currently being installed on beaches at locations including the Ballard Locks (photo left), Golden Gardens, Seattle Art Museum’s sculpture park waterfront, Discovery Park, Carkeek Park and the cities of Shoreline, Edmonds and Mukilteo.

The successful signage project was originally initiated by Seal Sitters in 2010 as a result of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods matching fund awards. Twelve signs (2 versions) were installed along the shore of West Seattle in the fall of 2010 and late spring of 2011. The sign version shown here features Spud, the seal pup who appeared on West Seattle’s Alki Beach in August of 2007, inspiring the formation of our network.

Seal Sitters' signage project completed

     
Seal Sitters’ signage project, made possible by a Seattle Department of Neighborhoods matching fund award, is in the final installation phase with the help of Parks’ employee Bill Harwich. The signs are in place along beaches in West Seattle most frequented by seal pups (as well as adult seals and other pinnipeds). Bill is shown here with the sign he installed near the Water Taxi. The signs have information about seals, protocol if you encounter a seal on the beach and the phone hotline numbers. A second sign in the shape of a seal (our first pup, Spud) is also scattered along the waterfront of West Seattle. See related story. Don’t forget to enter the Seal Sitters hotline number into your cell phone so that if you’re out strolling the beaches and come across a marine mammal, you can give us a call to respond. Seal pupping season is now underway in our area and we anticipate pups visiting our shores soon. These signs will remind folks that it is normal for a seal pup to be alone on the beach, to observe from a distance, keep dogs leashed at all times and call the stranding network @ 206-905-SEAL (7325).

Seal Sitters would like to give huge thanks to Joe Neiford, Emily Fuller and Dewey Potter of Seattle Parks and Garry Owens of the Department of Neighborhoods for their help in making this project a success - and, of course, the Department of Neighborhoods for granting us this generous in-kind award!

Seal Sitters signage prototypes now on Alki Beach

     
This morning Seattle Parks Department installed two versions of informational signage about seals and seal pups on Alki Beach. This was a project funded by the Neighborhood Matching Funds grant that Seal Sitters was awarded earlier this year. One sign is a cutout photo of a seal pup (Spud, who started West Seattle’s love affair with pups) and gives basic information that it is normal for a seal pup to be alone on the beach, that dogs should be leashed, and the contact phone numbers for Seal Sitters’ dispatch and the NOAA NW stranding hotline. Parks employees Sio (left) and Tony (right) pose with that sign shortly after installing it on the beach across from 2322 Alki Avenue. The second sign version goes into more detail about the biology of seals from their birth through the weaning process. It is installed across the street from Pioneer Coffee. Seal Sitters cannot thank enough the City of Seattle and Parks Department for enabling us to complete this very important educational project. Within minutes of installing the signs, a West Seattle resident entered our dispatch number into her cell phone. We encourage everyone to do the same, as pups are appearing on our beaches almost daily now.
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