Sharks and Seals: Buffet Numbers of Seals on Both Coasts
Sharks were big news in Summer 2015, of course. What's behind the increased sightings of sharks? For one thing, scientists say that white sharks are concentrating themselves around their favorite food, seals, on both coasts. Why not? Some of us like In ‘n Out or kelp burgers, and try to locate near those, too.
At any rate, sharks like seals because they are fatty, large and presumably a toothsome mouthful. In July, Stanford researchers noted that individuals who want to avoid sharks would do well to stay away from seal colonies. Here's a bit more information on where seals are located on U.S. coasts and what they are doing, besides providing swimming bait for sharks.
In Cape Cod and New England in general, fur, harbor, harp, and hooded seals have all increased their numbers in the last 30 years. Before that, seals were often hunted or poorly protected--they were very unpopular with fishermen as competition for fish. More recently, NOAA notes that the 2001 count for harbor seals was 38,011, which is 28.7 percent higher than the 1997 count; also, things have only gotten better since then for the seal colonies in New England, as the Center for Coastal Studies, in Provincetown, Mass., noted on their website.
North Carolina, site of plenty of shark news over the summer, also has increasing seal sightings. Duke University's Marine Lab is studying one seal colony there-- but until recently, seals were not commonly seen as far south as North Carolina at all.
California and the West Coast's elephant seals are a big conservation success story: The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, Calif. says they number at about 150,000 on the Pacific Coast, which is near their population size before they were overhunted in the 19th and 20th centuries.