Subject: New England Aquarium Seabits 2.11 (fwd)

Michael Williamson (williams@sun.SIMMONS.EDU)
Tue, 17 Nov 1998 14:17:04 -0500 (EST)

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Date: Tue, 3 Nov 1998 10:39:33 -0500
To: Seabits <>
Subject: New England Aquarium Seabits 2.11

New England Aquarium Monthly e-mail Newsletter
Volume 2, Issue 11, November, 1998
Copyright, New England Aquarium, 1998.
October was an interesting month here at the New England Aquarium. We
wished a bon voyage to a few rescued seal pups who are back out in the
wild, and we were picketed by a small contingent from the People for
Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) for serving seafood in our Cafe and at
our catered events. Things are never dull!

This month we bring you updates on those seal pups, take a look at our sea
lions, put our two cents in on the seafood debate, and find out who is
eating the otters.

In this issue:
  Watery Words
    - California Sea Lions - Here and There
    - Seal Pups Journey Home
    - Sea Otters, They're Not Just for Breakfast Anymore
    - Salmon Swimming ... in Buerre Blanc?
  The John Prescott Fund for Marine Conservation Research
  Outreach Discount
  Travel Opportunities
  November Calendar
  Planet of the Penguins Preview

=-=-= WATERY WORDS =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

"It is an important and popular fact that things are not always what they
seem. For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was
more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much -- the
wheel, New York, wars and so on -- while all the dolphins had ever done was
muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins
had always believed they were far more intelligent than man -- for
precisely the same reasons."

                                   - Douglas Adams,
                                     Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

=-=-= STORIES =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
This month's stories:
  1) California Sea Lions - Here and There
  2) Seal Pups Journey Home
  3) Sea Otters, They're Not Just for Breakfast Anymore
  4) Salmon Swimming ... in Buerre Blanc?

----- CALIFORNIA SEA LIONS -- HERE AND THERE ------------------------------
"He's just a big teddy bear," says trainer Paul Bradley of Guthrie,
noticing my hesitation at patting Guthrie's massive neck. Guthrie is a
roughly 600-pound California sea lion who has been at the Aquarium for
fifteen of his sixteen years. He seems to be as his trainer describes, a
friendly, gentle soul. For a few fish, Guthrie showed me his famous grin,
let me look at his large, black teeth and let me pat his soft, sleek fur
and leathery flippers.

Guthrie is one of the four California sea lions who call the Discovery, our
floating marine mammal pavilion, home. Tyler, fifteen, and Zuma and Ballou,
both eight, round out the rest of our sea lion colony. The youngsters of
the group, Zuma and Ballou, were actively cavorting around during my visit,
diving into the water, ejecting themselves out onto the platform and
sliding up to the gate to see what we were up to.

California sea lions are curious, intelligent animals capable of learning a
wide range of complex behaviors. "Everyone asks me if they are as smart as
dogs," says Paul, "and I don't know." He adds, "Most marine mammal trainers
are terrible at training their dogs. I had a boxer who walked all over me."

In addition to performing behaviors on command, these sea lions are also
trained to, when given a signal, do "something different." This requires
some creativity on the part of the sea lions, and, for a small fish fee,
they do come up with interesting things.

Keeping these animals happy and entertained has led to trainers trying out
a wide variety of toys and even installing a sound system -- by pushing a
large wooden square, the sea lions can listen to classical music; the
triangle yields Barbra Streisand; and the circle, quiet again. So far, they
have not shown a real interest in the music. Perhaps we should try Handel's
water music, or maybe some Phish?

California sea lions are strictly West Coast residents, found all along the
Pacific coast from Mexico to Canada. Once very depleted, these animals have
enjoyed protection since the passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act in
1972. The U.S. population has been increasing at a rate of about 5% a year,
with an estimated population of up to 181,000 animals (NMFS 1997).

The increasing population has led to numerous conflicts between humans and
sea lions. Perhaps the most famous conflict occurred on Pier 39 in San
Francisco, California. The docks at Pier 39 appeared to a large group of
male sea lions to be the perfect resting spot, much to the frustration of
the local yacht and shop owners. After trying to get rid of them and
failing, the sea lions became such a tourist attraction that the shop
owners were happy and city planners just built another dock for the yachts.

Not all conflicts are solved so easily, however. If you want to really get
a Pacific coast fisherman hot under the collar, mention that you think the
real problem is human expansion and destruction of fish habitat, and that
the sea lions really have very little to do with decreasing salmonid
populations. At Ballard Locks near Seattle, Washington, a battle between
sea lions and steelhead fishermen raged for over ten years, during which
the fishermen tried to discourage the sea lions from going after "their"
fish by using underwater firecrackers, chaser boats, acoustic harassment
devices, rubber-tipped arrows, taste aversion conditioning, experimental
barrier nets, trapping and relocating sea lions to southern California, and
"fake Willy," a model of a killer whale emitting killer whale noises. In
short, nothing worked. Too smart and too dedicated to be dissuaded by scare
tactics, these animals were blamed for decreases in steelhead in Lake
Washington of between 42 and 65 percent.

In 1996, the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife received
permission to lethally remove, or, in plain English, kill, five
particularly voracious sea lions who would sit quite happily at the base of
the locks, snapping up the steelhead as they made their upward migration to
spawn. Before the removal could take place, Sea World of Orlando stepped in
and offered these repeat offenders a permanent home in captivity.

Looking at Guthrie quietly snoozing in the sunlight, this is probably a
pretty good deal for them, though of course it is not a real solution.
Scientists, managers, fishermen and activists have all taken up the
gauntlet, in some cases together, searching for solutions.

If you would like to see these animals close up in their natural habitats,
be sure to check out the travel opportunities section below.

Droplet: In the winter of 1989/90, six steelhead-eating sea lions were
captured in Puget Sound and relocated to southern California. Three
returned to Puget Sound, one in 30 days and the other two in 45 days.
That's 1200 miles, or between 26 and 40 miles a day!

----- SEAL PUPS JOURNEY HOME ----------------------------------------------
On a sunny October day, we wished five harbor seal pups bon voyage as we
released them back into the ocean. These five pups were all found stranded,
underweight, and suffering from a variety of health problems on the Maine
coast earlier this spring. After spending five or so months at the New
England Aquarium, where they were treated, fed, and taught to fish for
themselves, these pups were sent off to live their lives as wild animals
once more.

How well will they do back out in the wild? That's a good question that so
far has remained largely unanswered. For the last 15 years or so, we have
been releasing seal pups with flipper tags, and presuming that if we did
not hear from them again, they were doing fine. Now, taking advantage of
new satellite tagging technology, some released pups are being tagged and
their movements tracked to get the answers to two questions: 1) What
happens when we release them? and 2) If they are taking up their lives as
happy, healthy seals, where do happy, healthy seals go and what do they do?

Of the group released on October 22, one, known as #19, was released with a
small satellite tag. The tag is a small box with an antenna that is glued
to the seal's fur, and falls off when it molts. The satellite tag can
transmit information on where the seal is, as well as the depth and
duration of its dives. To transmit the information, one of the four
polar-orbiting satellites must be in the area and the transmitter must be
out of the water. This information is then emailed to the Aquarium, where
we plot the information and keep track of the seal's whereabouts. So far,
#19 has not transmitted much information, but the first week out often does
not yield much. Greg Early, the New England Aquarium scientist in charge of
our tagging research, thinks this might be because the seal is spending a
lot of time looking around, with its head in the water, putting the tag at
a difficult angle for transmission.

This year, so far we have released five seals with satellite tags -- two
harbor seals, two hooded seals and one gray seal. Two of the animals were
released earlier in the summer, and their tags are no longer transmitting.
Small tags usually have a life of about two and half to three months. The
two hooded seals released later in the summer have been steadily making
their way north. One, released in New Jersey, has made it up to the Bay of
Fundy, where she seems to be staying, and the other, released in Nahant, is
already up in the Labrador Sea. Hooded seals are normally found in the
Arctic, though in the last ten years more and more of them have been seen
in our area. Because they tend to haul out on public beaches and are not
afraid of people, they are quickly becoming the most commonly reported
stranded seal from December to April.

One more seal, pup #7, will probably be released in the next few weeks also
with a satellite tag. Pup #7 is a special case. When he was found, he was
underweight and was suffering from a severe eye infection. Seals have very
strong ocular muscles, which made it difficult for us to administer the
necessary topical eye medication. To solve this problem, Dr. Rose
Borkowski, a veterinarian at Tufts University, borrowed from a veterinary
procedure for horses, and surgically inserted a tube under his eyelid. This
allowed the medication to be delivered directly to his eye even when
tightly shut. After 14 weeks of treatment, the infection was finally cured,
and the "subpalpebral lavage system" was removed last week. He is now
regaining strength, learning to fish on his own, and is almost ready to
return to the wild.

When they are released, the seal pups typically stay in the shallows at
first, and may even come back to the beach. A pup released in Maine three
weeks ago came back onto the beach after swimming around the shallows, and
lifted up its hind flippers in what looked like a wave goodbye. Good luck
out there, guys!

- Special thanks to Greg Early and Sue Knapp.

Droplet: If you encounter a wild seal on the beach, be sure to give it
plenty of space. Seals are as comfortable on land as in water, and it may
just be resting. Seals sometimes stay "hauled out" for whole days. If you
have any doubt about its health, call the Aquarium's 24-hour New England
Aquarium/Fleet Bank Marine Animal Rescue Hotline at (617) 973-5247.

You may not have heard about the case of the missing sea otters, but the
complete disappearance of so many of these animals in the Aleutian Islands
(near Alaska) had many biologists confused. They had examined all the usual
suspects -- food shortages, epidemics, toxins and slowed reproductive rates
-- and still could not account for the population of sea otters dropping
from about 53,000 to 6,000 animals. Adding to the mystery was a lack of
remains. After years of mystery, biologist Jim Estes of USGS and his
colleagues finger the culprits in the October 16 issue of Science: the
killer whales.

Killer whales usually feed on harbor seals and Steller sea lions, both of
which have declined dramatically in the Aleutian archipelago. It seems that
killer whales have turned to a formerly overlooked food source, sea otters,
to fill the gap. Researchers' suspicions were confirmed when they noted
that sea otter populations in whale-accessible areas declined by about 76%,
while others remained constant. How many killer whales live in the Aleutian
archipelago is unknown, but as few as four killer whales on an all-otter
diet could have caused the decline biologists are seeing.

Droplet: A killer whale on a steady diet of sea otters could consume as
many as 1,825 otters in one year.

----- SALMON SWIMMING ... IN BUERRE BLANC? --------------------------------
The New England Aquarium hit the front page of the Wall Street Journal in
the marketplace section on September 30. The article did not admire our
leafy sea dragons, our giant Japanese spider crabs or our diving puffins.
Instead, a tongue-in-cheek article noted that to see yellowfin tuna or
lobster at the Aquarium, you need look no further than the Cafe menu.

It is an interesting paradox. You might be inclined to do as a handful of
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) activists did and picket
the Aquarium for purporting to be a marine conservation organization and
then, gasp, doing the unthinkable and encouraging people to eat seafood.

Is serving seafood really a hypocritical practice that diminishes the
Aquarium's credibility as a conservation organization? Or is it actually
the right course of action for a conservation organization such as ours? To
be a responsible conservation organization is to encourage appropriate uses
of natural resources and strongly discourage inappropriate, unsustainable
or destructive uses of those resources. In our view, seafood that is caught
responsibly is a sustainable, renewable resource that can and should be
used to feed and employ the world's ever-increasing population. Much of the
world relies on seafood as its primary protein source. It is also a good
source of those wonderful Omega-3 fatty acids and is a large part of our
New England heritage.

We are very careful about what appears on our menu here. We avoid serving
shark, swordfish, bluefin tuna, grouper and orange roughy, among others,
because these are all species that are overfished or are vulnerable to
overfishing. Our fish sandwiches are made from haddock caught off of
Iceland, not our local depleted stocks. By refusing to buy locally caught
depleted species, we decrease the market and discourage local fishermen
from catching them in the first place.

In addition to the health of the stocks, we also look at how the animal is
caught. One of the biggest issues in the fishing industry today is bycatch,
the unwanted, undersized or extra fish or marine animals caught
inadvertently. A staggering one-fifth of the total worldwide commercial
marine catch is thrown back to the sea dead or injured, because the
fishermen do not want or cannot keep it. Scientists and fishermen are
working on ways to reduce bycatch in some fisheries, and have already
decreased bycatch with some innovative techniques in others. At the
Aquarium, we support responsible fishing practices by purchasing seafood
from reputable dealers and wholesalers who share our concerns. It is part
of our business to keep on top of these and other fisheries issues, enter
the debates, and help develop solutions. We do this through our
conservation programs, our fisheries research and, of course, through
education in venues such as this.

Appreciation of marine life and the marine environment can be gained in all
kinds of ways. If you have ever looked at some our exhibits and wished for
a fishing pole, you are certainly not alone (though we never, ever serve
our exhibit animals) in your particular appreciation of marine resources.

- Special thanks to Sue Knapp, roving reporter and de facto seafood

Droplet: The New England Aquarium serves about 20 pounds of fish per day in
our Cafe, while we feed our display animals hundreds of pounds of fish per

=-=-= OUT ON THE NET =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
For additional information, you might want to check out the following
websites. Some of these links represent partners in aquatic conservation
and animal husbandry; others are simply resources we think may help you
enrich your perspective on our watery world. By listing these websites, the
New England Aquarium is not automatically endorsing or verifying the
accuracy of their content unless explicitly stated.

Sea Lions

Sea Otters


The John Prescott Fund for Marine Conservation Research
In memory of John Prescott, executive director of the New England Aquarium
from 1972 - 1994, a permanently endowed fund is being established to fund
scientific research in the field of biological conservation, specifically
ocean and pelagic ecosystems. If you are interested in contributing to this
fund, please call (617) 973-0295 or send contributions to the John Prescott
Fund for Marine Conservation Research, New England Aquarium, Central Wharf,
Boston, MA 02110. To obtain information on applying for funding, please
call (617) 973-0295.

If you book an educational outreach program to take place before December
31, 1998, we will deduct $50 from the cost. Try our live tidepool animal
program, or a presentation where the audience makes a theatrical tidepool
come alive, or experience a day of learning about marine mammals and our
world's oceans with a variety of hands-on museum exhibits. To book your
program or for more details call our Education Department at: (617)

=-=-= TRAVEL OPPORTUNITIES =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Visit the Sea Lions! This spring, the New England Aquarium's Travel
Department has put together two specially-designed tours to get a good look
at sea lions, whales, and harbor seals, and other West Coast species. To
get more information about these tours, please call Jeanne Rankin at (617)
973-6562, or email <>. Also, check out our website, which
has more details on these trips, at <>.

Baja California, March 6 - 14, 1999.
Join us aboard the 70-passenger sailing ship Sea Lion, as we explore Baja
California the Sea of Cortez. On this voyage, we will encounter a variety
of whales and other marine mammals, and will also have the opportunity to
snorkel, swim, kayak and explore uninhabited islands. A dedicated staff of
naturalists will accompany you, identifying unique birds and animals, and
answering your questions.

Monterey and San Francisco, April 30 - May 5, 1999.
On this tour, we will explore San Francisco and Monterey, including special
behind-the-scenes tours of the Steinhart and Monterey Bay aquariums. Also
enjoy the famous 17-mile drive, a winery tour, Fisherman's Wharf, Muir
Woods, Point Lobos State Reserve and other historic and scenic places.

Sign up for these trips soon, space is limited!

Travel to the Amazon!
Spend January in the tropics with the Aquarium's 9th annual
participant-sponsored expedition for Project Piaba. Work with local people
in the ornamental fish trade to keep their renewable resources at
ecologically sustainable and commercial feasible levels. Five more spaces
are available on this amazing trip. For more information and travel costs,
se. <> or call Scott Dowd at (617)

Win a Trip to Sea World!
Next time you visit the Aquarium, buy a chance to win a trip to Sea World
for a family of four. This includes round trip airfare, 3 days/2 nights
hotel accommodations, a rental car for 3 days, and unlimited admission to
Sea World! All proceeds benefit the New England Aquarium. The drawing will
take place on December 31, 1998 at the New Englan. Aquarium. The winner
need not be present to claim his or her prize. Raffle tickets are $2 each
or $5 for a book of 5 tickets.

=-=-= NOVEMBER CALENDAR =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
Wednesday, November 4, 5:00 - 8:00 P.M.
Take advantage of our new $5 off after 5:00 P.M. special! The Aquarium will
stay open late, and will admit people until 7:45 P.M. for $5 off the normal
admission price.

Saturday, November 7, 9:15 A.M.
Feeding Time Tour. Why does one animal receive its food at the end of a
stick, yet another eats off the surface of the water? During this tour, you
will see what various animals at the Aquarium eat and the many different
ways they are fed. For ages 6 and older. Tour is $4.00 per person for
members; $8.00 per person plus admission for nonmembers. Children must be
accompanied by an adult. Call (617) 973-5206 to reserve space.

Sunday, November 8, 10:00 A.M. - 2:00 P.M.
Nature and Lighthouse Cruise. Call the Travel Department at (617) 973-6562
for details and reservations. Advance reservations required. Adults $22,
Children $16.

Saturday, November 14 and Sunday, November 15, 1:30 - 3:30 P.M.
Harbor Seal Tracking Trip. Join us for a boat cruise through the inner and
outer islands as we look for harbor seals, sea birds and other wildlife.
Call (617) 973-5281 for details and reservation information.

Saturday, November 14, 9:30 A.M.
Penguins Explorer Class. Investigate these animals and habitats with
hands-on aquatic activities and enjoy personal attention from Aquarium
educators. Recommended for ages 6-9. Children must be accompanied by an
adult. $4.00 per person for members; $8.00 per person for nonmembers. No
fee for adult participant. The nonmember price does not include Aquarium
admission. Call (617) 973-5206 to register.

Wednesday,November 18, 6:30 P.M.
Dive Club Meeting at New England Aquarium. Guests and new members always
welcome. Call (617) 973-0240 for details.

Saturday, November 21, 9:15 A.M.
Aquarium 2000 Tour. Our research team and conservation department work
busily behind the scenes and off-site around the world. See how their
efforts and discoveries are reflected in Aquarium exhibits. For ages 6 and
older. Tour is $4.00 per person for members; $8.00 per person plus
admission for nonmembers. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Call
(617) 973-5206 to register.

Friday, December 4, 1998, 1:30 - 5:00 P.M. 
Planet of the Penguins Preview 
Penguin Conservation Forum. The New England Aquarium has gathered penguin
experts, field researchers, and conservation enthusiasts from around the
globe to share their tales of penguin research and encourage a better
understanding of these waddling wonders. Speakers include: Susie Ellis,
International Union of Concerned Nations Dr. Tony Williams, Cape Nature
Conservation, South Africa Peter Dann, Phillip Island Nature Reserve,
Australia Gerald Kooyman, Scripps Institution of Oceanography Robert
Crawford, Sea Fisheries Research Institute, South Africa Dr. Wayne
Trivelpiece, Southwest Fisheries Science Center, California Free and open
to the public, but space is limited. RSVP to Taunya at (617) 973-5223 or

Saturday, December 5 and Sunday, December 6, 9:30 A.M. to 6:00 P.M.
Planet Of The Penguins.
Planet of the Penguins is the New England Aquarium's way of increasing
awareness and understanding of penguins and the issues that face them in
the wild. Throughout each day, there will be live animal presentations,
craft activities, coloring activities, fact sheets, temporary tattoos, and
penguin education stations in the main exhibit building and the Exploration
Center. Included with admission.

Saturday, December 5
Birdwatching and Nature Harbor Cruise. Bundle up, bird and nature lovers
and join New England Aquarium staff and renowned ornithologists from around
the world on a birdwatching and nature harbor cruise aboard the well-heated
Voyager II. As part of our Planet of the Penguins celebration, we invite
you to learn about local and exotic seabirds from the experts: Dr. Tony
Williams, Cape Nature Conservancy, Cape Town, South Africa, Dr. Rob
Crawford, Sea Fisheries Institute, Cape Town, South Africa, Dr. Peter Dann,
Phillip Island Penguin Reserve, Melbourne, Australia. Cost: Adults $22,
Children (3-15) $16, Children under 3 not permitted. To register and to
find out more about this and other New England Aquarium trips, email
<> or call 617-973-6562.

=-=-= SUBSCRIBE/UNSUBSCRIBE INFORMATION =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
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OR send e-mail to <>. In the body of your email message
write "subscribe seabits" (without the quotes).

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=-=-= CONTACT US =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Content questions and comments? Contact Jennifer Goebel at

Technical questions and comments? Contact Bruce Wyman at <>.

=-=-= THAT'S ALL FOLKS =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Rather marine mammal heavy this month, but next month we'll be looking at
some feathery fellows. As always, I am interested in hearing your comments
and suggestions. - Jen Goebel