New Hope for Harbor Seals

Irene Dieter Construction crews recently placed a new haul-out at Alameda Point harbor seals can use as a place to rest.

 

A new cement float for harbor seals was delivered to Alameda Point on June 22. Seals had been staying on the existing, familiar wooden dock. On Monday, July 11, the Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA), the Bay Area’s ferry agency, removed that dock in preparation for building its maintenance facility.

If the seals decide to stay in the harbor, they will have to adapt to the new structure. As of the morning of Tuesday, July 12, four seals were already on the new float, a promising development.

Workers tied the new float to pilings alongside the old dock. 

They will move it incrementally closer to Breakwater Beach, away from the planned ferry facility, moves that will allow time for the seals to adapt. 

The sheltered harbor with good food foraging makes the area ideal for seals. When they come out of the water (haul out) they are extremely vulnerable to human disturbance. 

The marine mammal expert hired by WETA, Dr. Jim Harvey, director of the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, said that the ferries moving in and out of the new facility should not affect seal behavior. 

Kayakers were recently seen approaching the easily spooked seals. Folks who monitor the number of seals and their behavior posted a temporary sign at Breakwater Beach informing water users of the need to keep 150 feet away from the seals. The educational sign appears to be having a positive impact. The city will be posting a new sign in the near future. 

Harbor seals are protected under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act, which prohibits disturbing resting seals.

The new float is 20 feet by 25 feet. It will be held in place at its permanent location with four anchors. One side is sloped to make it easier for the seals to haul out. The float is made of reinforced concrete with enclosed Styrofoam underneath to keep it afloat. It was built at a cost to WETA of $68,000.

Here’s hoping the harbor seals like this first-of-its-kind resting structure built specifically for seals the same way that sea lions like the Pier 39 dock in San Francisco.

Seal advocates have done everything they can to ensure that these seldom seen mammals stay in Alameda, where they will be easily visible from the Bay Trail. They convinced the city and WETA to install the replacement float before demolishing the existing dock. Now nature has to take its course. So far, harbor seal monitors have reported seeing a single seal on the new float on only two occasions.

We will be watching, and interested members of the public can participate in monitoring the seals by contacting Alameda Point Harbor Seal Monitors at alamedaharborseals@gmail.com or viewing updates on their Facebook page.

 

Irene Dieter Crews with the Water Emergency Transport Authority removed an old dock harbor seals had been using as a haul out Monday. A new dock has been constructed so the seals haul out at a safer location.

 

Irene Dieter posts stories and photos about Alameda at ionalameda.com.