Seals and sea lions can no longer be ignored in the effort to
recover our threatened Puget Sound chinook salmon or our endangered
new study shows that seals and sea lions are eating about 1.4
million pounds of Puget Sound chinook each year — about nine times
more than they were eating in 1970, according to the report. Please
read the story I wrote for the Encyclopedia
of Puget Sound, also published in an abridged version in the
Seals and sea lions in Puget Sound get the first chance to catch
the chinook as they leave the streams and head out to the ocean.
Since they are eaten at a very young age, these small chinook,
called “smolts,” never grow into adults; they never become
available for killer whales or humans.
Based on rough estimates, as many as one in five of these young
fish are getting eaten on their way out of Puget Sound. If they
were to survive the seals and sea lions and one factors in the
remaining mortality rate, these fish could translate into an
average of 162,000 adult chinook each year. That’s twice the number
eaten by killer whales and roughly six times as many as caught in
Puget Sound by tribal, commercial and recreational fishers
combined, according to the study.
In today’s featured video, National Geographic photographer Paul
Nicklen calmly describes his underwater encounter with a massive
leopard seal in the Antarctic.
I guess Nicklen was not so calm at the time, as he tells in his
narration, but he stayed in place and kept shooting as the leopard
seal made moves toward him that could be interpreted in various
ways. Nicklen, who has plenty of experience around wild animals,
said the seal acted aggressive at first but later tried to make a
connection, perhaps by offering the diver a penguin to eat.
Nicklen, who has been working in the polar regions for 17 years,
had a “unique childhood among the Intuit in Canada’s Arctic,”
according to his bio. He has
shot some amazing and exciting scenes, and I’m an admirer of his
images of the spirit bear, which is another unique story. See the
spirit bear photos on his webpage, and check out the
National Geographic story by Bainbridge Island writer Bruce
Barcott. Nicklen lives on Vancouver Island.
As for leopard seals, they are pretty amazing creatures, though
not always amusing. Take a look at this series of videos by
Nature. You can also swim with a leopard seal via a
“crittercam” in this
National Geographic video, which features the work of biologist
Tracey Rogers. (The crittercam part starts about halfway
Another crittercam captures the movements of an Australian sea
lion as it hunts for and eventually eats an octopus. The
National Geographic footage is from a project designed to
figure out what the sea lions are eating. Australian sea lions were
once hunted to near-extinction but are now protected by the