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$64,000 Question

Travel & news discussion about the British Virgin Islands

$64,000 Question

Postby KarenS » Mon Jun 19, 2006 7:51 am

By SUZANNE WENTLEY
suzanne.wentley@scripps.com
June 17, 2006

STUART — Plug the name of Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution's Greg Bossart into Google's Internet search screen, and information about his work on dolphins, manatees and whales will pop up.
So Bossart, the director of marine mammal research and conservation, wasn't surprised when he got a call from a biologist from the British Virgin Islands, asking for help with a beached animal.

But he was surprised by the animal.
It seems a hooded seal — a marine mammal that lives on and around packed ice off the coast of Newfoundland — somehow found its way to the tiny island of Anegada in the Caribbean Sea.

"This is a very unusual occurrence," Bossart said Friday. "They live on off-shore packed ice. They're migratory, but the Caribbean is a little ridiculous."

Still, it isn't the first time the veterinarian was called about a stranded hooded seal. Nearly 20 years ago, a baby seal stranded itself on a Fort Lauderdale beach.

When Bossart received that call, he said he thought someone had been partying too much.

"We don't have seals in Florida," he said. "But it was a seal.

"It certainly suggests, for some reason, this animal was separated from its mother and they were migrating and they were headed maybe to the Caribbean, maybe for a vacation."

That could have been the case this week, when the seal was discovered on the beaches of the 33-square-mile island east of Puerto Rico.

The only other hooded seals that have been reported in the Caribbean were on the islands of Anguilla and Guadeloupe, Bossart said.

"There was a Caribbean monk seal, but that's probably extinct," he said. "It hasn't been seen since the late '40s."

It's possible the most recent sighting of a hooded seal in the Caribbean could be caused by global warming, with the reports of melting packed ice in the Arctic, Bossart added.

But each report — and how the seals survive in warmer ocean temperatures and what they eat in such a different ecosystem — is essentially a mystery, he said.

"Why an arctic species ends up in the Caribbean is the $64,000 question," he said.
Karen for Caribbean-On-Line.com
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Sea Lion

Postby Jim » Tue Jun 20, 2006 12:24 pm

The animal in question was not an artic Hooded Seal, but a sea lion. Many many years ago there used to be seals in BVI.
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