After over 30 years of advocacy, activism, and dedicated protection efforts, Orkney Seal Rescue have announced a incredible milestone. Under a wildlife bill moving successfully through the Scottish Parliament, licenses will no longer be issued allowing fisheries interests to "cull seals" in the name of defending commercial salmon harvests.
Additionally, acoustic deterrent devices used to scare off seals, and which have been shown to harm other marine mammals, will be controlled and licensed by March of the coming year under the current amendments being enacted. Cooperation by the salmon producers is anticipated, as are more stringent punishments for violations of all the new protections.
Image courtesy Ross Flett, Orkney Seal Rescue
Uqutengqerrtuci? ("Got seal oil?" in Yupik)
The Alaska Native Harbor Seal Commission was organized in May, 1995. It is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization comprised of Alaska Native Lands Claims Settlement Act Regions and a consortia of tribes within the habitat range of the harbor seal off the coast of Alaska. It is a member of the Indigenous Peoples Council for Marine Mammals, and has a harbor seal co-managment arrangement with the National Marine Fisheries Service. Donations are tax-exempt, and can be made using this form.
ANHSC was centrally involved in Exxon Valdex restoration assessments, and maintains close stewardship of harbor seal populations through trained Local Research Associates, and annual Harvest Data Surveys. They are critical resources for research bio-sampling, and back current science with millennia of traditional wisdom.
As part of their Mission to protect harbor seal populations, the ANHSC has participated in the development of Federal Rules for cruise ships in Alaskan waters, as well as Approach Guidlines for glacial fjords for all visitors. Most recently, they have opposed potentially disruptive activities such as commercial hovercraft tours in sensitive areas.
Using modern social media such as Facebook, a new generation is learning the best of what their elders have always known.
Celebrating their 20 years as a Commission - and their countless centuries as a people - the ANHSC Chairman, Speridon "Mitch" Simeonoff, Sr. wrote in the Winter 2014 newsletter, "For the coming year and forward let's make this a better place for our children. Our ancestors made it better for us, Who are we if we do not try to make it better?"
Used by permission.
Iliamna Lake, Alaska
Years of aerial photographic studies of the Lake Iliamna harbor seals have demonstrated indisputably that seals remain over-winter and that pupping occurs at the lake. Research has shown, also, that although the population is small, it currently finds adequate resources to support itself at a stable level under present conditions.
Photo by Dave Withrow, Alaska Fisheriews Science Center, NOAA Fisheries Service.
Used by permission.
Point Bonita, Golden Gate Headlands - (See Alert)
For years, the seal colony below the Pt Bonita Lighthouse trail has been regularly disturbed and frequently flushed into the water by people fishing on shore and from boats, by kayakers, and by groups of children taken down the informal hillside trail to experience tidepools and marine life.
Casa Beach, San Diego - (See Alert)
In a unanimous decision, the California Coastal Commission ordered the pupping beach closed to the public each December to May. The seawall viewing area will remain accessible, but the beach stairway will be chained. The effort by local advocates for enforcement of applicable laws despite the opposition by public use and commercial interests will be tested by a 5-year study period.
And, on 6/10/15 the Coastal Commission unanimously approved a year-round visitor guideline rope on the beach, offering protection even during non-pupping seasons.
Photo by Phil Konstantin.
Used by permission.
Drakes Bay, Pt. Reyes (See Alert)
For people familiar with the vast Estero, its enormous colony of harbor seals, and the history of oyster farming in the middle of what was to became the largest Marine Wilderness on the coast, to see the waters free of oyster bags, racks, and harvesting motor boats is an unbelievable sight. But persistence — of the National Park System at staying true to its vision and the agreements which created the Point Reyes National Seashore, of a conservation-minded Interior Secretary, and of court after court which refused to stall the fulfillment of the Wilderness plan — finally paid off. The Estero is now free of commercial development!
USGS graphic - Public Domain.
Once a disputed subspecies of harbor seals, the Ungava Seal ("kasagea" in Inuit), has been definitively rediscovered in the Lac des Loups Marins ("Seal Lakes") region of northern Quebec. Canadian environment adventurer Conor Mihell, after a challenging voyage by canoe managed to find and photograph this extremely rare animal in its native freshwater habitat.
As his article movingly describes in the March/April Sierra magazine, he and his team documented the location, behavior, and characteristics of Phoca vitulina mellonae. His findings were guided by the writings of mid-20th century Carnegie Museum biologists Doutt and Twomey, and are supported by the exhaustive treatment of the subspecies by Richard John Smith, whose 1999 thesis at Guelph University demonstrated its genetic and geographic uniqueness.
Photo by Conor Mihell
Used by permission.
The Marine and Environmental Research Institute, founded and directed by Dr. Susan D. Shaw, has been working for 25 years to provide the scientific evidence enabling wildlife protection efforts as well as reduction of human exposure to pollutants. Formed in 1990 in response to the death of over 20,000 harbor seals in European waters, they began their Seals as Sentinels program in 2000 to assess toxic contaminants in Northwest Atlantic coast seals. Focusing on the Gulf of Maine, their expertise in using seals as indicators of ecosystem health has enabled them to extend their research from the oil blowout in the Gulf of Mexico to compunds such as fire retardants in San Francisco.
Their newest initiative, Stop Toxic Ocean Pollution, has been designed by Dr. Shaw to tackle a broad spectrum of substances including micro plastics and chemical dispersants. Her background in public health/environmental sciences, extensive experience in seal tissue analysis, skill in marine diving, and commitment to public advocacy make her a worthy successor to the traditions begun by Rachel Carson.
Photo by Sbrousseau
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island
Not all activies labeled "eco-tourism" are benign, for seal-watching excursions can become "seal disturbance" tours if suitable standards of distance, behavior, and methods are not followed. Save The Bay tours offer the opportunity to discover withuot disturbance, by following best practices for water-based tours.
Photo courtesy Save The Bay©.
Used by permission.
Harbor seals have been known at times to travel great distances, although they tend to be conservative about group haulout and pupping areas. Their movement patterns are not strictly described as "migrations", but predictable seasonal routes do exist, and one exists off the rocky shores of Galicia, Spain (within the golden rectangle on the map below). Here, regular monitoring from 30 observation posts by A Coordinadora para o Estudo dos Mamíferos Mariños (CEMMA), headquartered in Pontevedra (red dot on map), has revealed that from time to time - especially during during the summer months - "some adult common seal specimen arrives traveling along the coast" according to Alfredo López, the group's president, and one of its principal researchers.
One such common/harbor seal hauled out at the Ría of Barqueiro, north of the city of Lugo on 20 December 2011 (blue dot on map), and has provided this website with the first photographic evidence of Phoca vitulina this far south on the eastern Atlantic, although there have been occasional reports of sightings all the way down to Gibraltar. If such visitors run into difficulties in Galicia, there is skilled, experienced help at hand. CEMMA's website is available in Galician, Spanish, and English.
Begun in 1992, CEMMA is the lead organization for the regional Stranding Network (Rede de Varamentos) authorized by the Galician regional government, and which carries out rescues, rehabilitation, and releases from CEMMA facilities in association with the Galician Institute of Training in Aquaculture (IGAFA), the O Grove Aquarium, and the Veterinary Hospital Rof Codina of the University of Santiago de Compostela in Lugo.
While their primary focus has been cetaceans, with up to 20 species having been identified off the Galician coast, Gray seals (Halichoerus grypus) and sea turtles are also regularly treated successfully. CEMMA stands ready for harbor seals in trouble (YouTube video) as well.
Img: Ría do Barqueiro, Lugo, Galicia ©Antonio Martinez Pernas/CEMMA, Map courtesy ICES/CIEM
SR3 - SEALIFE RESPONSE + RESCUE + REHABILITATION in Mukilteo, WA - With an extensive team of staff and expert advisors, a growing group of volunteers and institutional partners, and a location in one of the richest habitats for marine mammals in North America, SR3 has potentially vast resources and equally vast challenges to meet. Founded in 2017 with a focus ranging from Orcas to Sea otters, with a significant commitment to Harbor seals, this new effort will finally give Washington facilities designed and permitted to care for endangered marine mammals.
Seeing the name of Marty Haulena on the list of SR3 Board Members has special meaning for the SealWatch.org founders, as he was staff veterinarian at The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California, when this website was conceived by Education volunteers serving there at the time.
It is apparent that the passion and professionalism of people like Dr. Haulena, and the other staff and advisors at rescue centers, play a big role in attracting and retaining volunteers, even as much as the value of the work itself.
SEAL RESCUE IRELAND at Courtown Harbour, Gorey, Co. Wexford, Ireland, just re-opened in the last few years, after their original rescue facility, The Dingle Wildlife and Seal Sanctuary in County Kerry, was destroyed in winter storms. They were offered a new start in Courtown, County Wexford, where they have continued their work. In the 2017-2018 season, they have issued an URGENT APPEAL for volunteer support, due to unprecedented storm-driven strandings.
Logo graphics courtesy SR3 and Seal Rescue Ireland
Although the UK has had a checkered history in its attitudes towards common/harbor/harbour seal (Phoca vitulina vitulina) conservation - with seals still being shot with impunity in Scotland - the Zoological Society of London is continuing to lead a multi-year survey of seal populations in the Thames. And with ongoing efforts at habitat improvement, the results are expected to continue to improve.
With earlier survey numbers already reaching up to a thousand, after decimating viral epidemics (PDV), haul-out destruction, and wide-spread pollution, conditions have improved enough that a first-ever "Breeding Survey" is planned in the Estuary for 2018.
As part of the ongoing monitoring, public input of seal sightings along the Thames is encouraged, using "citizen-science" data to supplement the work of professional marine biologists surveying from the land, water, and air. The ambitious Greater Thames Seal Action Plan encompasses all aspects of species and habitat conservation, from fisheries interaction and planning applications to inter-species competition and necropsy systematology.
Graphic by Slimberly at English Wikipedia