During our last monthly sea lion survey of the Fort Ross Sea Lion Rocks, FRC’s Director of Programs, Song Hunter, spotted the first tagged animal we’ve seen during one of our surveys! The animal was a California sea lion, and from the yellow tag we can tell this sea lion was tagged at San Miguel Island (the westernmost of California’s Channel Islands).
Luckily, Song was able to get a good photograph of the tagged animal, so that we could send the image to the Marine Mammal Laboratory (MML — a division of NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center). MML collects resighting photographs of California and Steller sea lions, which happens to be the two resident sea lion species at Fort Ross. See here the original photograph:
Below is a cropped and enlarged image of the original photograph. We’ve encircled the tagged sea lion, but you can see that these tags can be very easy to miss.
Sea lion tagging and branding is done by (NOAA Fisheries) authorized research organizations and agencies, so that individual animals can be tracked throughout their lifetime, providing scientists with valuable information concerning migratory patterns, habitat use, reproductive success and much more. Click here for more information about sea lion branding in the Pacific Northwest.
The more resightings the better! If you are ever out observing the sea lions at Fort Ross and get a photograph of a branded and/or tagged animal, please send to Charon Vilnai at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Charon Vilnai, FRC Programs Instructor & Sea Lion Survey Project Lead