About 240 students from Eldorado Middle School in Concord visited Alameda Point to make observations of the harbor seals on March 22. The school participates in an educational program sponsored by the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito called Ocean Ambassadors.
The students arrived in two groups. While the first group was at the trailside viewing site, a second group was on a ferry ride around San Francisco Bay to view marine wildlife. The second group arrived in the afternoon, while the first group went on the ferry excursion.
Alameda Point was chosen for viewing harbor seals because it is the only place on the Bay that is easily accessible for viewing seals.
A harbor seal pup is being raised by its mom at Alameda Point. It is the fourth year in a row that a pup has been observed utilizing the harbor seal float. It is unknown where any of the pups were born.
On December 23, the number of harbor seals on the float at Alameda Point reached 80, a new record for a single day. The number of seals on the float exceeded 70 on 10 days during December, a new record for the month.
Seals were packed so tightly that some were barely hanging onto the edge. The cramped conditions when the float reaches 70 seals in December and January can lead to bouts of slapping and shoving, as harbor seals prefer to have some space when resting. Continue reading “Harbor seals max out their float in December”
Open Letter to Mr. James Connaughton
Chief Executive Officer
Nautilus Data Technologies
Dear Mr. Connaughton,
The Alameda City Council has granted you approval of moving forward with your data storage facility at Alameda Point. Please reconsider the route for discharging warm water from the cooling system. Instead of heading south under the Bay Trail and through the harbor near the ferry maintenance facility, send the water discharge pipe north to the Oakland Estuary.
Nautilus Data Technologies is proposing to convert Building 530, located at 120 West Oriskany Avenue at Alameda Point, into a data storage facility. The facility would draw 10,000 gallons of water a minute from underneath Pier 2 in order to cool the racks of computer servers. The warmer water, about 4 degrees warmer, would be discharged into San Francisco Bay. Water cooling is a cheaper alternative than traditional air conditioning.
Alameda Point’s harbor seal population fluctuates between single digits and 50 during most of the year on the specially-built harbor seal float. But when the Pacific herring arrive in the winter to lay their eggs, many more seals arrive to feast on the herring, causing a sudden spike. Last winter, a spike in seal numbers to a record 70 came on January 5, 2017, in the midst of the herring run. This winter, the herring arrived sooner, in December, and so did more harbor seals, causing a spike to a new record of 73 on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
In the brief time span since the new harbor seal float was set in place, local monitors have assumed that it was simply the colder water temperatures that enticed greater numbers of seals to use the float in the winter. But in fact, they discovered it’s not the full story.
It turns out that dropping water temperature indeed has an effect, but the effect is on the herring. Ideal water temperature for herring spawning is between 50 and 53.6 degrees Fahrenheit. The water temperature at Alameda Point dropped below 54 degrees the afternoon of December 16 and continued dropping another 2.3 degrees, according to data collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This brought on the herring run and, in turn, the voracious seals.
The rain ended, the sun came out, and so did the harbor seals at Alameda Point. So many of them came out of the water to warm up on their new float on January 5, hardly any of the structure was visible. The number has many observers asking for a second float.
The regional ferry agency installed the new float after removing an old Navy dock used by the seals, in order to make way for a ferry maintenance facility.
“I nearly keeled over when I saw the platform,” said Lisa Haderlie Baker, harbor seal monitor and Alameda resident. “So many seals packed cheek by jowl, literally, that I had to count them four times using binoculars to make sure there were 60 of them, at least, basking in the sun, which I knew had to be close to a record. It was a tremendous thrill.” Continue reading “No vacancy on float for harbor seals”