Archived Reports


Whales and Seals


The State of Alaska decided to conduct a preliminary harbor seal research project in Tracy Arm this summer for the purposes of testing new GPS technology and collecting data that will help them develop better research parameters for next year’s harbor seal research program.

The instruments stored the seal’s GPS locations, along with detailed haul-out and dive behavior. Two of the three tags also transmitted summarized data via ARGOS satellites. Tags were temporarily glued to the seals’ fur, and then fell off when the seals shed their fur during their annual molt.  As of July 14, the State of Alaska recovered all three tags and are now in the process of analyzing the data. The results of the analyses will be used to assess the extent to which the objectives of next year’s proposed study, as currently designed, can be accomplished, and to revise the study design as needed.

In addition, the State has developed a harbor seal research webpage which provides background on their seal research, a short summary of the 2012 test project and preliminary 2013 study objectives.

We have worked hard to ensure the State has a more reasonable approach to the future research.  We are pleased they have come a long way.  One year ago, NOAA/NMFS was threatening to initiate an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, while the State of Alaska documents indicated all vessel disturbances were having a negative impact upon the seals.  Although there is still no indication of what NMFS might do, the State now recognizes that there is a difference between an individual seal disturbance and a population impact.  The State also recognizes that below certain levels, seal disturbance have no negative population impacts. The study next year will provide useful data in the event NMFS moves forward with regulatory changes to increase vessel and seal distances.



There have been no new developments from NOAA/NMFS regarding the posting of an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking.

ACA has remained in contact with the State seal biologists as well as the NMFS protective species staff in Juneau.  Following the state appropriation of additional seal research funds, the state biologists and NMFS staff have discussed options regarding research location, objectives, and timeline.  The State has decided to continue the work they have already planned for this summer and begin additional seal research next year.  The State biologists have committed to share their draft study design prior to initiating the new study, and have agreed to the requested suggestions for the background material to be posted on their website.


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