Author Topic: Harbor Seal, Hackensack River  (Read 2061 times)

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Harbor Seal, Hackensack River
« on: March 13, 2013, 04:29:23 PM »
Seal rests in Carlstadt after a good morning fishing the Hack
Tuesday, March 12, 2013   
Last updated: Tuesday March 12, 2013, 6:18 PM

CARLSTADT - A Harbor Seal gave the Meadowlands his seal of approval this morning, according to Jim Wright of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.

A Harbor seal lounges on a dock at the River Barge Park in Carlstadt this morning.

New Jersey Meadowlands Commission staffer Angelo Urato was working at the River Barge Park around 8:30 a.m. today, March 12, when he noticed something large on the dock. He got out his binoculars and low and behold what he discovered was a seal lazing on the dock.

Wright snapped a photo of the seal and sent it off to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine hoping rescuers there could assess the seal and the situation.

"It's a male Harbor Seal and looks to be in good shape," Robert Schoelkopf, the center's founding director, told Wright.

According to Schoelkopf, Harbor Seals are "all over New Jersey now" looking for food, especially herring and mackerel. Volunteers at the center have recorded about two dozen sightings of seals over the winter here in New Jersey.

"Well that's a fat and happy Harbor Seal if I ever saw one," said Captain Hugh Carola of the Hackensack Riverkeeper Association, after viewing the photo. It's not the first seal he's caught a glimpse of in the Meadowlands and he says that's a good sign for the health of river, its fish and the seal population overall.

"Prey species are up, [but] I think it's more of a sign that seal populations have rebounded from the unbridled slaughter they were subjected to from colonial times until the passage of the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act in the early 1970s," Carola said. "While yes, seals are in the Hack, and other metro area waterways, [I think it's] partly because they are simply retracing historic migration routes from the Gulf of Maine and Bay of Fundy in pursuit of migrating herring."

So why did the seal hang on the dock for most of morning? Schoelkopf told Wright he was resting after a full morning fishing the Hackensack waters.

"They spend their mornings eating. They haul out just to replenish their blood supply because they use the oxygen in their blood while they're diving for food. After he's rested up and had enough food, or the fish move on, he'll move on with them," Schoelkopf assured Wright.

As cute as the harbor seal is, Schoelkopf said they do bite so NJMC staffers were warned to keep their distance and not to scare the seal.

The seal stayed until around noon when it slid off the dock into the Hackensack and swam away.

To read Wright's full interview with Schoelkopf and to find out more about the Marine Mammal Stranding Center go to