Alameda Magazine: Hope Floats for Alameda’s Harbor Seals, July 2015


Seal supporters worry that these doe-eyed marine mammals will abandon the area once the sinking dock where they haul out each day is demolished to make way for the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority’s [WETA] new facility. The ferry authority plans to construct a four-story building, diesel fuel storage tanks, and a work yard at the intersection of West Hornet and Ferry Point streets and install a 12-berth ferry slip. It will extend from the ferry facility into San Francisco Bay, disrupting the seals’ tranquil hangout, also known as a haul-out.

Hauling-out is a behavior in which seals temporarily leave the water to rest, regulate body temperature, avoid predators, and sometimes give birth. “Their blubber is not thick enough to let them to be in the water for long periods,” explained ecologist Sarah Allen, who works for the National Park Service. Allen said that harbor seals favor low-sloping substrates like sandbars, offshore rocks, and man-made structures, as haul-outs. But while seals have hauled out in Alameda for decades, they haven’t always frequented this particular dock at Alameda Point.