06 August 2007

Disturbance in the Sound

Edited to add: Anyone who rents a kayak or goes out with guides in this area is furnished with recommendations on how to approach marine mammals and what not to do. The kayakers I've written about had clearly identifiable rented kayaks.

To the four paddlers of two little red kayaks in a certain bay in Prince William Sound, Alaska seen around noon today.

Dear Kayakers ~

Today was both your lucky day and your unlucky day. It was lucky because you were foolish enough to pull your kayaks right up to that calving glacier and touch it's face without being squashed by a piece of ice carving off and effectively ending your existence. A rather foolish thing, don't you think? To challenge nature for a photograph that might have been the last of you?

It was your unlucky day because you blatantly broke the Marine Mammal Conservation Act (1972). Did you know that when seals lift their heads to look at you it is out of concern for your presence and not to pose for a photograph? I know, dear kayakers, that you must be a bit ignorant, hence the close up view of the glacier, but even you must have noticed the fact that as you approached them, even tried to put your kayaks on the icebergs the animals were resting on, that they fled to the water. You were there on a day when the brash ice was sparse and the seals had to clump together to find space in the ice.

Aerial Image of Harbor Seals hauled out on Ice

What you didn't know is that we saw you on glacier cam and that we have video footage of the whole thing. That's right, we remotely monitor these seals on an hourly basis all summer long. We weren't looking for you but how could we not notice? And there is a penalty for such disturbance of the marine wildlife. Had you merely accidentally scared them we would have let you off the hook but pursuing them? Foisting your kayak on their bergs as they frantically dove for the ice? That was inexcusable and avoidable and I regret to inform you that we ratted you out.


  1. ah, those reckless kids of summer.

    bastards. seriously, what will happen next? a ticket? a fine? am curious.

  2. I echo jen. makes me wonder exactly how much tourists are expected to know when traveling. (I'm not excusing it, I just wonder where we draw the line)

  3. jen & liv ~ I did think twice about posting this because I thought people might think I was ranting needlessly but what I think it comes down to is respect.

    First of all, all of the kayak rental and guide places around the area have educational posters up about marine mammals provided by us and are aware of the problem. They even hanf out pamphlets with their rentals (and these were rentals). I have no problem with people wanting to see the seals but definately going up to them and making them swim away is a sign of lack of respect. You don't do that to any wild animal. Okay, so the first group, okay, you figured it out, you don't go do it to the second group and the third group. So I feel that they likely have been educated but chose not to listen. (I also feel that people who disrespect animals often disrespect people.)

    What will likely happen is that a park ranger will reprimand them and just explain the situation. They could be fined but that would be a drastic action and usually only taken if they continued such behavior post-reprimand. It made us upset because these seal populations have declined recently but I think we're pretty reasonable. We make a lot of allowances for ignorance but since we've worked mighty hard at getting information out there you'd have to have your head in the sand to have missed it.

  4. right on. i would probably be too scared to get close anyway. but, i guess i was just clueless about protocol. thanks for explaining.

  5. 1) you rock, Wayfarer! get 'em!

    2) is glacier cam available to the general viewing public? (too bad the camera isn't accompanied by a microphone and speaker system -- you really could have given those kayakers some excitement!)

  6. Very glad you ratted them out!

    The untamed wild is a place to be treated with reverence and respect. It is never the right of man to go traipsing through it recklessly and with wanton disregard for the wildlife that lives there.

    Excellent post.

    Scarlett & Viaggiatore

  7. liv ~ no problem! Glad I could explain. It's hard to know those details if you haven't been there. :)

    froghair ~ unfortunately the glacier cam isn't but their is live streaming of the steller sea lion haul out on Chiswell Island (which is also on Alaska TV).

    Scarlett & Viggiatore ~ thanks! Good to see you here!

  8. Good on you,ws! They absolutely need to know that animals need to be respected. And the rental company should be made aware as well.

  9. sally forth ~ thanks! And yes, we did inform the rental company as well although it's hardly likely they will see that group again.

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