West Seattle wildlife: Seals as you’ve seldom seen them

You’ve seen the pups onshore, you’ve seen the adults briefly peek from the water before submerging … but unless you’re a diver, you just don’t get this kind of look at harbor seals. The occasion was somber – “Diver Laura” James was back off Seacrest, checking on the dying sea-star population – but she and her diving companion were delighted by the harbor seals who joined them, as their video shows. While to the untrained eye, the seals might seem to be looking for something they’re just not finding, Laura says that’s not it at all: “Very typical for the West Seattle harbor seals. They were hunting for the little golden fish that are illuminated by our dive lights. They’ve learned through the years that divers are great as ‘hunting assistants’ and they utilize our dive lights to help them capture shiner perch for dinner. They actually teach their offspring (or the smaller seals) to do it.”

As for the sea stars – no good news, nor even answers, yet; separate update to come.

18 Replies to "West Seattle wildlife: Seals as you've seldom seen them"

  • Jeanie January 12, 2014 (1:20 am)

    Wow – what amazing footage (or flipperage). We are fortunate to live in Seattle, with nature all around us. Let’s keep our waters clean for all the creatures who make it their home.

  • Beverly January 12, 2014 (7:01 am)

    Thanks so much for sharing & bringing awareness to what’s going on in our environment. We really need to clean it up!

  • miws January 12, 2014 (7:35 am)

    Thanks for another great underwater video, Laura, and WSB!


    Apparently, even the Harbor Seals know to “Always Dive With a Buddy”! ;-)



  • Anne January 12, 2014 (9:54 am)

    An amazing video, and the song was very good.
    What is the name of it?

  • Melissa January 12, 2014 (10:11 am)

    Whoa!!! That was gorgeous! And so lovely (and scary) to see the animal’s fearlessness when in the water with a person. They are so trustful and, again, as Diver Laura constantly tries to show, we ought to respect and appreciate that trust rather than to try to take advantage of it.

    Thanks to the videographers. Great Amanda F-ing Palmer tune, too.

  • Panda January 12, 2014 (10:22 am)

    So THAAAAAT’s where seals go to the bathroom….

    Great Video. Thanks or posting.

  • enviromaven January 12, 2014 (11:53 am)

    Awesome! Thanks Laura and WSB!

  • Joe Weihe January 12, 2014 (12:24 pm)

    Thank you for sharing the video with your community. I love seeing the “invisible” West Seattle.

  • Uncle Joe January 12, 2014 (12:28 pm)

    Wonderful video, thanks for sharing.

  • DiverLaura January 12, 2014 (4:14 pm)

    First off, thanks for all the kind words and WSB for posting! You ALL are why I keep doing this! (and some perhaps misguided notion that if I keep sharing and you all keep caring and spreading the love for Puget Sound that together we can save this beautiful gift)

    Anne, The song is “Want it Back” by Amanda Palmer off her recent Album “Theater is Evil”.

    It is a great song with a fantastic beat, but it also felt somehow appropriately poignant for the video. Sad dying starfish in the background, lively seals playing in the foreground, Puget Sound the theater, and how much indescribable love I have for the subsurface world… I have a tendency to incorporate my feelings on the dive and when I’m editing into the ‘art’, on multiple levels. How a video is cut, how it mixes with the lyrics and beat…
    I was editing the video and listening to the album and when the song started the thought crossed my mind that it echo’d well with my belief that if we don’t do everything we can to protect this delicate ecosystem that we’ll find ourselves looking back at a time (right now) when we were giving it away to big business and big industry who don’t mind externalizing the cost of doing business on the environment and by that token, we the people. That no matter how badly we ‘want it back’ we’ve already given it away. How important it is we get involved and vote with our ballots, voices and dollars and support sustainable, cradle to cradle options that don’t fill our waterways with trash and pollutants, and use every opportunity to protect what we still have and as a community never ever just turn a blind eye and give it away again.

  • CEA January 12, 2014 (5:17 pm)

    DiverLaura, your response was so eloquent. No matter how badly we want it back, we’ve already given it away…..wow. Thank you for sharing and for urging us to think, and think again. I’m with you! And how I loved watching those graceful seals underwater.

  • GaryE January 12, 2014 (5:27 pm)

    Thanks for posting!

  • G January 12, 2014 (6:37 pm)

    Don’t forget that industry and business is what gave us this comfy affluent lifestyle that we enjoy in Seattle and elsewhere.

    Nothing wrong with taking care of the environment, but I wonder if it is indeed in as bad shape as some of us want to believe it is. We have burgeoning populations of osprey, eagles, seals, and other creatures who depend on the health of the Puget Sound.

  • Lamont Granquist January 12, 2014 (9:39 pm)

    It isn’t an either-or choice between the environment and industry/business.

    You can still have parking lots as long as you mitigate the run off. You can still have energy, but it needs to be clean. People can install rain gardens in their homes and offices and that creates jobs and businesses.

    And the sound is in pretty bad shape. You can compare and contrast diving in areas in British Columbia and Alaska which are not built up at all with diving in the sound and the visibility (water quality) and the biodiversity are not comparable. And in the decade since I’ve been diving in the sound the changes have been disconcerting at least. All the six gill sharks left elliott bay awhile back (and nobody has any idea why), the seastars are completely getting decimated, and it seems like there’s even less flatfish than there used to be (which is odd since the sharks left, you’d think there’d be more). All the runoff causes yearly dead zones over in hood canal where the oxygen is completely consumed and pretty much everything dies in certain areas. I’d bet money that if we continue along a business as usual course than in the next 10-20 years we do see a visible collapse in the sound that can’t be easily ignored.

  • m January 12, 2014 (10:07 pm)

    Keep ’em coming, DiverLaura! You are a respected eye, ear, and voice in our community. Peace.

  • Kathy January 14, 2014 (12:15 pm)

    Gotta wonder how that toilet got there….

  • Lamont Granquist January 14, 2014 (5:30 pm)

    There are about a dozen or two toilets out there just off Seacrest park alone. Some people believe they’re habitat, but because they’re smooth, they rarely have much that is actually growing on them. I kind of want to recover them all then break them down into chunks no bitter than an inch or two and mix them with concrete into reef balls and put them back.

    There’s also a ton of tires out there which could be recovered, but would need a plan for how they’d be disposed of.

  • DiverLaura January 17, 2014 (7:24 pm)

    Tires tires everywhere… Yes, we’d LOVE to hear from folks who would be interested in helping us by recycling/disposal of said tires.

    Now that Cove 2 is a marine reserve, this kind of thing would be an amazing community restoration/reclamation project. We’ve already removed all the batteries… I think there is a reef ball mold kicking around in Washington, but we’d need the approval of the assorted powers that be to put in what would become amazing habitat (I’ll post some video at some point of how the reef balls look compared to tires and toilets, there are a bunch up at the Edmonds UW Park) But, its not do-able alone, we’d need both more diver help (generally easy to rope folks in for a dive or two) and also topside non-diver help with the creation of said habitat before it ever sees the salt of the sound.

    Here is as link to a map of what can be done when a community comes together…. (and one man devotes his life to a cause)


    a great article on the project: http://www.dtmag.com/dive-usa/locations/EdmondsUnderwaterParkWA.html

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