The folks at Alameda Point Harbor are pretty stoked: The “seal monitors” counted a record number of harbor seals floating on a concrete dock taken on Tuesday, beating last year's high set on Christmas Day.
“That’s a record for the year and surpasses last year’s record of 38,” which was set on Dec. 25, 2016, the group wrote on its Facebook page. “It looks pretty much like a full house now.”
Mark Klein said the group has been keeping track of the harbor seal count for more than a month now. On Nov. 29, there were just 26 of the harbor seals crammed onto the 500-square-foot floating platform.
Giancarlo Rulli, a spokesman for The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito said biologists believe the number of harbor seals is increasing because of the annual winter run of herring into the San Francisco Bay. That's why there are dozens of the sea lions, not harbor seals, at Pier 39 in San Francisco, too. It's hard to count how many there are, Rulli added, because many might be in the water, and off the dock, hunting for food.
The Alameda seal monitors describe themselves as a group of volunteers who “have long admired the harbor seals” that used to hang out on an old abandoned dock at Alameda Point, near the USS Hornet museum at the former U.S. Navy base. When government plans emerged in 2014 to develop that area by building a ferry maintenance facility, which would destroy the dock and evict the seals, the group came together to try to save the seals' home, according to their Facebook site.
The compromise that transpired in March 2015 involved the state ferry agency putting up the money to build a new floating dock for the seals.
The new dock arrived in June, and the old dock was removed the following month. The group said they are now keeping records, in accordance with the requirements of the Bay Conservation and Development Commission that approved the project.
According to Rulli, the numbers of harbor seals have stayed relatively steady for the past 20 years with an estimated population of between 700 to 950 animals in the bay.
This year, the mammal center has rescued 140 harbor seals, he said, significantly higher than the 41-year-average.