As a newcomer to Seattle, I’m enjoying learning about the diverse organizations and causes with roots in the Pacific Northwest. Each month, I will highlight a local group whose radical work inspires me to be more radical in my own work and daily life. -bb
A band of individuals, comprised solely of volunteers, tirelessly protecting seals along the Puget Sound by setting up perimeters and literally babysitting them to protect them from harm? Radical.
From June to September, in the inland waters of the Puget Sound, Harbor Seal “pupping season” is in full swing. The pups “haul out” onto the urban beaches to regulate their temperatures, rest, and conserve calories. They have a limited number of calories to expend while they are learning to sustain themselves, and disturbing them or scaring off their mothers can—and often does—have fatal consequences.
This is where the Seal Sitters come in. Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network is a group of volunteers who do just that: babysit the seals.
Trained by the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Seal Sitters provide rescue services and collect seal health and mortality data, aiding government agencies and biologists by researching the health of the Puget Sound ecosystem as a whole.
Although public education and data distribution are important, sometimes a situation becomes so dire that you must take the matter into your own – carefully trained – hands. The sitters search for seals on their own and respond to calls from the public. They set up safety perimeters near the animal, monitor its health from afar, and sit guard with the pup until it chooses to re-enter the water. If the animal is in need of medical assistance, the sitters take it to the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) for rehabilitation and, hopefully, an eventual release back into the wild. The goal is simple: Keep them safe where they are until they are rested enough to return to the water.
Due to harassment from humans, dogs, and boats, the seal population is suffering. Some people simply don’t know any better, and others don’t care. However, the sitters are making the public more aware of this issue through their presence on the shores of our urban beaches. More and more, people are notifying authorities and waiting with the pups until the Seal Sitters arrive. The message is reaching the public, and the seal population will reap the benefits.