Point Harbor Seals To Receive New Home

Richard Bangert Alameda Point’s resident harbor seals.

Alameda Point is a scenic attraction for many. As the former Naval Air Station, it holds the USS Hornet Museum, popular paths for joggers and picturesque views of the Bay. The Point is not only a tranquil spot for people, it is a place where harbor seals have inhabited undisturbed for at least 17 years. However, recently, that could have changed without the help of the seal-loving community.

As early as 1997, when the Navy left the base, seals have used the abandoned dock near the Hornet as a haul-out, a place to rest between periods in the water. The harbor seals are timid creatures, which is why their home at the Point is ideal, where there are rarely any people. On these docks, they bask in the sun with their pups and enjoy the peace.

Soon, the new home of the Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) will compromise the haul-out’s construction plans. WETA plans to build the Central Bay Operations and Maintenance Center, a maintenance building for its ferries nearby. The multi-storied center will allow space for office staff and storage, but will force the seals to move.

The idea of forcing the seals to move angered many in the community. "Harbor seals have been coming to Alameda Point to find food and a suitable breeding habitat and resting area in recent years. Rather than encouraging their homestead, WETA wants to kick them out," residents stated in a petition they drew up to encourage WETA to reconsider how it planned to treat the seals.

Thanks, in part, to the members of the community who voiced concern about the seals, WETA began working with the city and contacted harbor seal experts. They contracted with Dr. Jim Harvey, director of the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, to help with relocating the haul-out east of the dock that the seals had used and closer to Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach. Harvey holds a Ph. D. from Oregon State University and specializes in harbor seals and their behavior.

"Staff is working to ensure that the proposed site is consistent with real estate and environmental documents," the city stated. "WETA will begin working with the regulatory agencies to move the project forward."

Harvey has proposed intermediate actions to help encourage the seals to become comfortable with the new proposed location. He will provide recommendations to the community, city staff and WETA, which has set aside $100,000 for the haul-out.

Amy Chu is in the Girls Inc. Eureka! Program as an Alameda Sun intern. She can be reached at editor@alamedasun.com.