LONG ISLAND SOUND (WTNH) — Normally people think about coming out onto Long Island Sound in the summer, but this time of year there are also some pretty interesting things to see, like seals.
“This is all Fisher’s Island right here,” said biologist Chris Dodge, leaving UConn’s Avery Point campus.
He is with Project Oceanology, which is inviting others to climb aboard its Envior-Lab Research Vessel for the three-hour voyage.
“The majority of them are Harbor Seals,” said Dodge. “Way more than three-quarters of what we’re seeing are the Harbor Seals. There are other species in the Sound as well Gray Seals, Hooded Seals, and Harp Seals.”
The seals come down from Canada to enjoy the warmer waters off the Connecticut coast.
“We have them from about October to May is when they’re down here in Long Island Sound with us,” said Dodge.
Folks are encouraged to bring binoculars, but Dodge says they also have some to share.
“It’s always just strap around the neck,” said Dodge. “We like to say we don’t like to drop any over the side because the fish can’t use them.”
We visited a few piles of rocks along Fisher’s Island, which are exposed during low tide. That’s when these trips are taken.
“It’s all based around trying to get you guys to see the most seals as possible,” said Dodge.
We came upon about 50 seals sunning themselves, or at least trying to under cloudy skies at Hungry Point.
“They come out on the rocks, kind of to take a break,” said Dodge. “If you can imagine trying to swim for 20 hours a day, it gets a little tiresome, so they come out to relax a little bit, take a break, catch a nap before it’s time to go swim around and look for food again.”
One seal even tried to get a closer look at the boat, bobbing in its wake. Because they are federally protected you have to keep your distance and you can’t disturb them, but you can enjoy a sight which may warm you up on a cold winter day.
“They get really used to us and other boat traffic coming around, and as long as we maintain our distance it’s never really a problem for them,” said Dodge.
If you do want to see some seals, the Envior-Lab Research Vessel goes out every Saturday in February, and Saturdays and Sundays in March.