Why are so many seals being rescued from the Shore? Warming seas may be to blame, experts say

Nearly every pool at the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine is full of rescued animals.

Jim Murdoch

Feb 28, 2024, 5:42 PM

Updated 52 days ago


The Marine Mammal Stranding Center has rescued multiple seals at the Jersey Shore over the last few weeks. But why are so many seals, including an Arctic visitor who belongs in the Arctic, showing up in New Jersey?
Nearly every pool at the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine is full.
“Most of them are young gray seals. We have one adult harp seal, and he’s doing well,” says Sheila Dean, director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center.
The 150-pound harp seal belongs in the Arctic and ended up in Lavallette. It's now in the hands of the volunteers and staff at the center.
“They think they are on the ice and snow, so they start eating sand looking for liquid and they don’t realize it until it’s too late that they’ve eaten sand,” says Dean.
Jim Eberwine, the retired lead forecaster for the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, says warming sea surface temperatures may be to blame.
“They are going after - just like we do - going after the food chain, and how is that changing on a broad scale to bring these seals back this far south? That’s interesting because the waters are usually cold from the Labrador Current,” he said.
“They’re very concerned about the pups because they’re born on the ice and there’s no ice fields to be born on. Very little ice for them, it’s all broken up. Most of those pups will drown,” says Dean.
Two bottlenose dolphins also washed up dead at New Jersey beaches this winter, including one in Avalon a few weeks ago. It's a species not usually seen around the Jersey Shore until May. Eberwine says those looking for answers need to take notice of this behavior.
“They play a major role because they are telling us what’s in the ocean and why things may be happening, and they may be saying it could be our fault. It could be our fault why we are seeing these things happen,” says Eberwine.
The Marine Mammal Stranding Center cannot do all this work without the help of the public. Click HERE for more information on how you can get involved, make some donations or upcoming fundraisers.
Dean also asks that you stay at least 150 feet away from any seals on the beach and to also keep your pets away. Dean also says not to blast out the location on social media. Instead, she asks that you call the Marine Mammal Stranding Center to have a trained volunteer assess and monitor the situation.

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