Seen off West Seattle: Sea lions and seals’ buoy hangout

You’ve probably seen – or at least heard – the sea lions and seals who hang out on that mooring buoy off West Seattle’s northeast shore. Christopher Boffoli‘s photo provides a drone’s-eye view from more than 300 feet up (drone operators are required to stay below 400 feet). It also gives us a reason to remind you about the rules on the ground – we talked earlier this week with Seal Sitters at a taped-off stretch of Alki, east of the end of the sandy beach, and learned about what happened to Taffy the harbor seal. Most of the marine mammals on the buoy are California sea lions, by the way.

10 Replies to "Seen off West Seattle: Sea lions and seals' buoy hangout"

  • Trileigh March 31, 2017 (9:01 pm)

    What a fantastic photo, Christopher! Love both the aerial perspective and the layout of the image.

  • sc April 1, 2017 (7:51 am)

    “We can never have enough of Nature.”

    – Henry David Thoreau

  • Marty April 1, 2017 (5:51 pm)

    No seals in that photo, 100% sea lions…

  • Robin/Seal Sitters April 1, 2017 (5:58 pm)

    I wanted to share  the NOAA restrictions regarding the use of drones to photograph marine mammals, so we can hope to avoid an increase in disturbance from the air.  Federal guidelines recommend keeping a safe aerial distance of at least 1000 feet (300 yards) from marine mammals in the wild. In special circumstances and/or for research, one can apply for a permit for photography. Here is the link to NOAA’s website with guidelines:

    Additionally, many readers may not know that drones are not permitted to be flown in Seattle Parks.

  • cjboffoli April 1, 2017 (9:53 pm)

    Thanks for the information Robin.  NOAA might get in touch with the FAA to work something out as their guidelines limit UAV flight to 400 feet above sea level.  I’m pretty confident that these marine mammals had absolutely no idea that my tiny, quiet UAV was flying hundreds of feet above them and that it was much less intrusive than the Argosy boats that I have seen getting very close to that platform. And while it is true that UAVs are not permitted to be flown in Seattle parks, the airspace above Elliott Bay is not a Seattle park.

    • FAR Part 107 April 2, 2017 (10:05 am)

      Actually, the FAA might have concern over the fact that (assuming this is the buoy off Salty’s) there was an operation in Class D airspace controlled by Boeing Tower.  Class D airspace extends to the surface and requires coordination for UAS operation.   

      Additionally, there could be an arguement that this is a commercial operation which would place this under Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR’s) Part 107, Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems.  In this case, this UAS would need to be registered federally with an actual aircraft “N number”, and the operator would be required to possess a Remote Pilot Certificate.  There could be additional regulations applicable as well under Part 107.

      It’s quite possible that the operator has complied with all of these FAA requirements, but it’s just worth mentioning.

  • M April 1, 2017 (11:34 pm)

    Ya I doubt those big hunks of lard mind a little drone. The Puget Sound is overrun with sea lions. 

  • cjboffoli April 2, 2017 (2:40 pm)

    FAR PART 107:  Elliott Bay is beyond the 5 mile exclusion zone of KBFI.  Everything about the flight was in accordance with FAA guidelines: daytime, clear-weather flight, UAV in line-of-sight, below 400 feet, not flown over people, FAA registered.  And the small UAV (which weighs less than 750 grams) was neither launched from nor landed in a Seattle park. The image was shared with the WSB free of charge so it was not a commercial shoot and was not assigned by the editors so no remote pilot certificate is required.  UAVs offer a convenient new way to record unusual and creative visual perspectives of our landscape, without the noise, risk and expense of manned aircraft. I don’t know some folks seem so apt to assume their operation is illegal, careless or harmful.  

  • Kersti muul April 6, 2017 (3:33 am)

    Taffy was there yesterday, any updates? I was told he had a hurt flipper (on Saturday)

  • Kersti muul April 6, 2017 (3:36 am)

    Aaron took this yesterday at 4:30…

    Hope Taffy makes it :)

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