New England Aquarium Saves Baby Seals
Baby seals! They’re so cute! I was going to write an entire post mainly gushing about how cute they are and encouraging you to watch this great news story that features several baby seals doing super adorable things. And, I guess, I’m still doing that; however, after a little research, I realized there was more to this story than just how cute these marine mammals can be.
[caption id="attachment2552" align="alignright" width="300"]<a href="http://bostonlocaltv.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/2394094671thumbnail.jpg"> Woman holding a baby seal in front of the New England Aquarium. Watch the full story.[/caption]
The 1975-76 winter was a harsh one. In the late spring of 1976 several seal pups were found along the Massachusetts and Maine coasts, separated from their mothers. A seal pup normally stays with its mother until it is six months old and can live on its own. These baby seals couldn’t survive on their own, so the New England Aquarium took them in and fed them a substitute for seal milk (mainly heavy cream and cottage cheese). The Aquarium didn’t have a team dedicated to animal rescue, so the regular staff cared for the seals in addition to their normal duties.
Caring for the seals ended up being an around the clock job. They had to be fed 5 times a day at equal intervals, which meant overnight. Rather than having staff drive in to work in the middle of the night after only a few hours of sleep, several staff members took seals home, and fed and cared for them there.
Now, one might ask, “Isn’t that illegal?” Technically, it was. The Marine Mammal Protection Act was signed into law in 1972. Under that law seals, sea lions, dolphins, whales, and a few other marine mammals are the responsibility of National Oceanic Atmospheric Association (NOAA), while other marine mammals, like sea otters and polar bears, are the responsibility of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. That’s all good to know now, but in 1976, just four years after the law was signed, its regulations were only loosely in place. It basically boiled down to, The New England Aquarium rescued the animals, so they just did what they thought was best.
This anecdote comes from Paul Sieswerda, who, along with his wife Candi, took in a seal named Cecil. Paul worked at the NE Aquarium in 1976, and later at the New York Aquarium. Most recently he is a seal-watching tour guide on the American Princess cruise boat in New York Bay, and the founder of Gotham Whale, an organization that studies and educates other about marine mammals through citizen science. Citizen science is a method that allows everyday people to make systematic observations and contribute to scientific studies. Read more here about Paul’s work and citizen science here.
Salinger, Calla. “Meet your seal mate.” New York Post (New York, NY), February 10, 2012. http://nypost.com/2012/02/10/meet-your-seal-mate/
Sieswerda, Paul. “Candi and Cecil: A Seal in the Bathtub.” Gotham Whale. http://gothamwhale.com/cecil.html