Responding to concerns about the safety of a seal pup at Lighthouse Marine Park, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s enforcement branch had local sheriff’s deputies close off Lighthouse Marine Park’s day use area on Wednesday night.
Responders with the Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Network (WMMSN) arrived at the park on the night of July 19 following reports of a newborn harbor seal pup at the boat launch area getting too much unwanted attention from onlookers. WMMSN principal investigators said she instructed responders to relocate the pup 100 yards down the beach to less public area, but the next morning it was back at the boat launch.
“The public was not obeying the 100-yard rule, Souze said. “They taped the area off, but with the parking lot behind them and the water in front there wasn’t enough to make a 100-yard perimeter for the pup.”
Federal regulations prohibit harassing or interfering with marine mammals such as harbor seals. Seal pups will be left to rest and warm up, and the infants have not developed wariness like the adults so will not go back in the water if people or animals approach. The mother will return to care for the pup at night if the area is being disturbed during the day.
“The pup’s only chance of survival is to reunite with mom,” Souze said. “That will only happen on a quiet beach without people around. Mom will not come for her pup if there are people there. We were worried about another evening like Tuesday and what were we going to do?”
The park was closed from 5 p.m. on July 20 until the following morning at 10:30 a.m. The area around the boat launch remains taped off and volunteers are there as well as park ranger Aaron Johnson to enforce the 100-yard perimeter.
“No one can park out front or use the boat launch while the pup is still just right there,” Johnson said.
Souze said the pup remains at the waterline and is going in and out of the water, a sign the animal is likely in good health and being attended by its mother. A vet will be coming this afternoon for a health assessment.