G. Brown (George Brown) Goode.

The fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) online

. (page 12 of 146)
Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 12 of 146)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

cNcn ami Santa liarliara. as a distinct animal : and I call attention to tin- excellent description of
tin' California Sea Lion, made |>nl>lir in tin- April number for 1S7J of tin- Overland Monthly, by
(apt. < . M. Scaiiiiiion. in which the distinguishing characters, externally, of this animal are well
defined, and Ity which tin- difference, between the Eumetvfriait of Bering Sea anil that of the coast
it' ('iljfi)inia can at once he seen; and also I notice one more point in which the dissimilarity is
marked: the northern Sea Lion never barks or howls like the animal at the Farraloiic* [ait-] or
Santa liarliara. Young and old, both sexes, from one year and upward, have only a deep IHIMH
</ri>irl. and prolonged, steady roar f while at San Francisco Sea Lions break out incessantly with a
honking' l>ark or howl, and never roar.

I am not to lie understood as saying that nil the Sea Lions met with on the California!! coast
are different from /,'. Stelleri of J5eriug Sea. I am well satistied that stragglers from the north are
down on the Farrallones, but they are not migrating back and forth every season ; and I am further-
more certain that not a single animal of the species most common at San Francisco was present
among those breeding on the Pribylov Islands in 187^-'73.

According to the natives of Saint George, some fifty or sixty years ago the Eumetopin* held
almost exclusive possession of the island, being there in great numbers, some two or three hundred
thousand : and that, as tbe Fur Seals were barely |>ermitted to land by these animals, and in no
great number, the Russians directed them (the. natives) to hunt and worry the Sea Lions ciiV from
the island, and the result was that as the Sea Lions left, the Fur Seals came, so that to-day they occupy
nearly the same ground covered by the Eumetopian alone sixty years ago. This statement is, or
seems to he. corroborated by Ghoris, in his description of the lies S.-George's et S.-1'aul's [*te|,
visited by him fifty years ago; 1 but the account given by Bishop Veniamiuov, . . . differs
entirely from the above, for by it almost as many Fur Seals were taken on Saint George, during the
tirst years of occupation, as on Saint Paul, and never have been less than one-sixth of the number
on the larger island. ... I am strongly inclined to believe that the island of Saint George
never was resorted to in any great numbers by the Fur Seal, and that the Sea Lion was Uic dominant
animal there until disturbed and driven from its breeding-grounds by the people, who sought to
encourage the coming of its more valuable relative by so doing, and making room in this way for it.

"The Sea Lion has but little value save to the natives, and is more prized on account of its
liesli and skin, by the people living upon the islands and similar positions, than it would be else-
where. The matter of its preservation and perpetuation should be left entirely to them, and it will
be well looked alter. It is singular that the fat of the Sea Lion should l>e so different in characters
of tasic and smell from that of the Fur Seal, being free from any taint of disagreeable flavor or
odor, while the blubber of the latter, although so closely related, is most repugnant. The flesh of
the Sea Lion cub is tender, juicy, light-colored, and slightly like veal; in my opinion, quite good.
As the animal grows older, the meat is dry, tough, and without flavor."

i he food of the Sea Lion is well known to consist, like that of the other species of Eared
Seals, of lish. molhisks. and crustaceans, and occasionally birds. As shown by animals kept in
confinement, they require an enormous quantity. Captain Scammon states that the daily allow-
ance of a pair kept in Woodward's Gardens, San Francisco, amounted to forty or fifty pound* of

fle-ll lish.

"From fifteen to twenty thousand Si -a Lions," sa\s Captain Bryant, breed annually on the
I'ribylov or 1- ur Seal Islands. They do not leave the islands in winter, as do the Fur Seal>. to
return in spring, but remain during the whole year. They bring forth their young a month earlier

ritt<irr>c|iii' .intinir iln Mmiilr.


than the Fur Seals, landing during the months of May and June. They advance but little above
high tide-mark, and those of all ages land together. The strongest males drive out the weaker and
monopolize the females and continue with them till September. They go with them into the water
whenever they are disturbed, and also watch over the young. When in the water they swim about
the young and keep them together until they have an opportunity to land again. The females al.so
keep near, rushing hither and thither, appearing first on one side and then on the other of the
groups of young, constantly uttering a deep, hoarse growl at the intruder whenever they come to
the surface. When left undisturbed they all soon land again, preferring to spend the greater
portion of their time at this season on the shore. During the breeding season they visit the same
parts of the shore as the Fur Seals, but the Sea Lions, by their superior size and strength, crowd
out the Seals, the latter passively yielding their places without presuming to offer battle to their
formidable visitors. After having been disturbed the Sea Lions continue 1'or some time in a state
of unrest, occasionally uttering a low moaning sound, as though greatly distressed. Even after
the breeding season they keep close to the shore near the breeding station until the severe weather
of January. After this time they are seen only in small groups till the shores are free from snow
and ice in the spring."


GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION. The exact boundaries of the habitat of Zalophm californianm
cannot at present be given. The only specimens I have seen are from the coast of California and
its islands, from San Diego and San Nicholas Island northward to the Bay of San Francisco.
Captain Scam mon (see infra, pp. 301, 302) twice alludes incidentally to its presence "along the
Mexican and Califomian coasts," and Dr. Veatch states that "Sea Lions" (which he calls "Otaria
jitbata," but which are, almost beyond doubt, the present species) had populous breeding stations
twenty years ago, and doubtless have still, en Cerros or Cedros Island, iu about the latitude of
284, off the Lower California coast. Whether they occur southward of this point at t! e present
tinit^ I am unable to state, but should infer that such was the case from Scammon's allusion to
their capture along the "Mexican" coast. In any case, it appears probable that in Dampier's lime
they ranged as far south as the Chametly and Tres Marias islands, respectively in latitudes about
L'.'P and 21, at which points he saw "Seals" iu the year 1080. In describing the Chametly islands
(the most northerly of the two groups mentioned by him under this name), situated oft' the west
coast of Mexico in latitude 23 11', lie says, -'The Bays about the Islands are sometimes visited
with Seals; and this was the first place where I had seen any of these Animals, on the North side
of the Kqtialor. in these Seas. For the Fish on this sandy Coast lye most in the Lagunes or Salt-
Lakes, and Mouths of Kivers; For this being no rocky Coast, where Fish resort most, there seems
to be but little Food for the Seals, unless they will venture upon Cat-Fish." 1

He also met with Seals at the Tres Marias Islands (in latitude "21 5' r ), and consequently
two degrees south of the Chametly Islands, in describing one of which islands, named by him St.
George's Island, he says: "The Sea is also pretty well stored with Fish, and Turtle or Tortoise,
and Seal. This is the second place on this Coast where I did see any Seal: and this place helps
to con ti nn what 1 have observed, that they are seldom seen but where there is plenty of Fish.'"

It is of course not certain that the Seals here alluded to are '/alophux ciiliforiiitnttix. since the
Sea Elephant of the California coast also occurs at Cedros Island, and probably stdl lurther south,
the two species having apparently about the same range. If they had been the latter, Dampier
would probably have made some allusion to their large size.

'A New Voyage round tin- World, r>th id., vol. i. 1701, p;>. -J!i '!.


s|MM-irs (.1 '/Ml<>i>liux occurring , f j a |i;in IMS l>eeu by some writers considered to be the
same a> I he ( 'alit'ornian one; l.iii. though doubtless closely allied, its affinities, as will be notin-d
hiter (sec infra, p. L M ..{), appear to be not as yet satisfactorily determined. As Zalophu* cali/or-
/noun* has not yet been detected on the American coast north of California, its occurrence on
the Asiatic coast seems hardly to be expected.

This species has hitherto been believed to be free from any serious complications of synonymy,
and to have been lirM brought to the notice of the scientific world by McBaiu in 1858. Allen has,
however, shown that it was noticed in 1822 by Choris and described by Lesson under the name of
ntnrin i-nliforniiina.

II. VUITS. Several more or less full accounts of the habits of the California!) Sea Lions have
been given by dill'ereiit writers, who have, however, failed to distinguish the two species occurring
along the raliloniian coast, and consequently their descriptions are not wholly satisfactory. The
la rue noi them species certainly occurs, and rears its young, as far south as the Farallones, but
probably exists there only in small numbers, while I have seen no evidence of its presence at Santa
Barbara Island. Kvcn Captain Scammon, in his account of the Sea Lions of California, has not
distinctly recogni/.ed the two species occurring there, and his description doubtless refers in part
to both species, but unquestionably relates mainly to the present one. 1 His "Sketch of a sealing
season upon Santa Barbara Island," in 18J2, presumably relates exclusively to Zafaphus califor-
iiininix. but in addition to this I quote a few paragraphs from his general account of "the Sea Lion,"
since it is the testimony of a trustworthy eye-witness.

"On approaching an island, or point, occupied by a numerous herd," he observes, "one first
hears their long, plaintive bowlings, as if in distress; but when near them, the sounds become more
varied and deafening. The old males roar so loudly as to drown the noise of the heaviest sur-
among the rocks and caverns, and the younger of both sexes, together with the 'clapmatches,'
croak hoarselj", or send forth sounds like the bleating of sheep or the barking of dogs; in fact,
their tumultuous utterances are beyond description. A rookery of matured animals presents a
ferocious and defiant appearance; but usually at the approach of man they become alarmed, and,
if not opposed in their escape, roll, tumble, and sometimes make fearful leaps from high precipitous
rocks to hasten their flight. Like all the others of the Seal tribe, they are gregarious, and gather
in the largest numbers during the 'pupping season,' which varies in different latitudes. On the
( 'alilbrnia coast it is from May to August, inclusive, and upon the shores of Alaska it is said to be
from June to October, during which period the females bring forth their young, nurse them, asso-
ciate with the valiant males, and both unite in the care of the little ones, keeping a wary guard,
and teaching them, by their own parental actions, how to move over the broken, slimy, rock-
bound shore, or upon the sandy, pebbly beaches, and to dive and gambol amid the surf and rolling
groundswells. At first the pups manifest great aversion to the water, but soon, instinctively,
become active and playful in the element; so by the time the season is over, the juvenile creatures
disappear with the greater portion of the old ones, only a few of the vast herd remaining at the
favorite resorts throughout the. year. During the pupping season, both males and females, so far
at we could ascertain, take but little if any food, particularly the males, though the females have
been ^observed to leave their charges and go off, apparently in search of subsistence, but thev do
not venture far from their young ones. That the Sea Lion caai go without food for a long time is
unquestionable. One of the superintendents of Woodward's Gardens informed me that in

'That Captaiu Scammon ront'ounded the two gpeciesof northern Sea Lions is evident not only from In- puliliabed
writings, but from liis having transmitted, to the National Museum specimen* of Zaloj>lm from Santa Barbara Island,
labeled by him " Enmetopiat Sltllrri."


numerous instances they have received Sea Lions into the aquarium which did not eat a morsel of
nourishment during a whole month, and appeared to suffer but little inconvenience from their long-

" As the time approaches for their annual assemblage, those returning or coining from abroad
are seen near the shores, appearing wild and shy. Soon after, however, the females gather upon
the beaches, cliff's, or rocks, when the battles among the old males begin for the supreme control
of the harems; these struggles often lasting for days, the fight being kept up until one or both
become exhausted, but is renewed again when sufficiently recuperated for another attack ; and, really,
the attitudes assumed aud the passes made at each other, equal the amplification of a professional
fencer. The combat lasts until both become disabled or one is driven from the ground, or perhaps
both become so reduced that a third party, fresh from his winter migration, drives them from the
coveted charge. The vanquished animals then slink off to some retired spot as if disgraced.
Nevertheless, at times, two or more will have charge of the same rookery; but in such instances
frequent defiant growlings and petty battles occur. So far as we have observed upon the Sea
Lions of the California coast, there is but' little attachment manifested between the sexes; indeed,
much of the Turkish nature is apparent, but the females show some affection for their offspring,
yet if alarmed when upon the land, they will instantly desert them and take to the water. The
young cubs, on the other hand, are the most fractious and savage little creatures imaginable,
especially if awakened from their nearly continuous sleeping; and frequently, when a mother
reclines to nurse her single whelp, a swarm of others will perhaps contend for the same favor.

" To give a more detailed and extended account of the Sea Lions we will relate a brief sketch
of a sealing season on Santa Barbara Island. It was near the end of May, 1852, when we arrived,
and soon after the rookeries of 'clapmatches,' which were scattered around the island, began to
augment, and large numbers of huge males made their appearance, belching forth sharp, ugly
howls, and leaping out of or darting through the water with surprising velocity, frequently diving
outside the rollers, the next moment emerging from the crest of the foaming breakers, and wad-
dling up the beach with head erect, or, with seeming effort, climbing some kelp-fringed rock, to
doze in the scorching sunbeams, while others would lie sleeping or playing among the beds of sea-
weed, with their heads and outstretched limbs above the surface. But a few days elapsed before
a general contention with the adult males began for the mastery of the different rookeries, and the
victims of the bloody encounter were to be seen on all sides of the island, with torn lips or muti-
lated limbs and gashed sides, while now and then an unfortunate creature would be met with minus
an eye or with the orb forced from its socket, and, together with other wounds, presenting a ghastly
appearance. As the time for 'haulhig-up' drew near, the island became one mass of animation;
every beach, rock, and cliff', where a Seal could find foothold, became its resting-place, while a
countless herd of old males capped the summit, and the united clamorings of the vast ;issemblage
could be heard, oh a calm day, for miles at sea. The south side of the island is high and precipi-
tous, with a projecting ledge hardly perceptible from the beach below, upon which one immense
Sea Lion managed to climb, and there remained for several weeks until the season was over.
How he ascended, or in what manner he retired to the water, was a mystery to our numerous ship's
ciew, as lie came and went in the night; for 'Old Gray,' as named by the sailors, was closely
watched in his elevated position during the time the men were engaged at their work. 1

1 "Relative (o Ihe Sea Lions leaping from giddy heights, an incident occurred ut Santa Barbara Island, the last
of the season of 1852, which we will here mention. A rookery of about twenty individuals was collected on the brink
of a precipitous cliff, at a height at least of sixty feet above the rocks which shelved from the beach below; and our
party were sure in their own minds, that, by surprising the animula, we could drive them over tlie cliff. This was
easily accomplished; but to our chagrin, when we arrived at the point below, where we expected to find the huge
beasts helplessly mutilated, or killed outright, the last animal of the whole rookery was seen plunging into the sea."

TIIK r.M.iroKMA SI.A i.m\ 47

None but tin- adult males u.-iv captured, which was usually done by shooting them in the

car or near il : liir a hall in any other part of the ho.l\ had not -e effect Mian il would in a Cri/./ly

Hear. Occasionally, however, they arc taken with the club and lance, only shooting :i few .,!' the
MiaMiTs of the herd. This is easilv accomplished with an experienced crew, if there is sntlicicnt
ground back I'roin the lieach for the animals to retreat. During our stay, an instance, occurred,
which not only displayed the, sagacity of the animals, but also their yielding disposition, when
hard pressed in certain situations, as if naturally designed to be slain in numbers equal to tho
demands of their human pursuers. On the south of Santa Barbara Island was a plateau, elevated
less than a hundred feet above the sea, stretching to the brink of a cliff that overhung the shore,
aii'l a narrow gorge leading up from Mic beach, through which the animals crowded to their favor-
ite resting place. As the sun dipped behind the hills, fifty to a hundred males would congregate
upon the spot and there remain until the boats were lowered in the morning, when immediately the
whole herd would quietly slip ott'into the sea and gambol abuut during the day, returning as they
saw the Ixiats again leave tho island for the ship. Several unsuccessful attempts had been made
to take them; but at last a fresh breeze commenced blowing directly from the shore, ami prevent* d
their scenting the hui.ters, who landed some distance from the rookery, then cautiously advanced,
and suddenly yelling, and flourishing muskets, clubs, and lances, rushed up within a few yards of
them, while the pleading creatures, with lolling tongues and glaring e.\es, were quite overcome
with dismay, and remained nearly motionless. At last, two overgrown males broke through the
line formed by the men, but they paid the penalty with their lives before reaching the water. A
few moments passed, when all hands moved slowly toward the rookery, which asjdowly retreated.
This maneuver is termed 'turning them,' and, when once accomplished, the disheartened creatuies
appear to abandon all hope of escape, and resign themselves to their fate. The herd at this time
numbered seventy five, which were soon dispatched, by shooting the largest ones, and clubbing
and lancing the others, save one young Sea Lion, which was spared to see whether he would make
any resistance by being driven over the hills beyond. The poor creature only moved along
through the prickly pears that covered the ground when compelled by his cruel pursuers; and. at
last, with an imploring look and writhing in pain, it held out its tin-like arms, which were pierced
with thorns, in such a manner as to touch the sympathy of the barbarous sealers, who instantly
put the sufferer out of its misery by a stroke of a heavy club. As soon as the animal is killed, the
longot spires of its whiskers are pulled out, then it is skinned, and its coating of fat cut in sections
from its body and transported to the vessel, where, after being 'minced,' the oil is extracted by
boiling. The testes are taken out, and, with the selected spires of whiskers, find a market in
China the former being used medicinally, and the latter for personal oinameiits.

"At the close of the season which lasts about three months, on the California coast a huge
majority of the great herds, both males and females, return to the sea, and roam in all directions in
ipiest of food, as but few of them could liud sustenance about the waters contiguous to the islands,
or points on the mainland, which are their annual resorting places. They live upon lish, 1 niollii>k>.

'THE SKA I. iox> i>i:sii;ri TIN I. or i i-u. Tin- I-'arallnno Kgj; COIMIMIIV. several years iijro. :ilti-ni|iti-il to kill the
S-a MOILS which frequented those Inn-roil islands for iheiroil anil skiiiH. Thry Imilt try work* anil wont I"'-' nsidcralde
expense, lull it was found that tin- nil obtained from a carcass did not pay for trying it. and I In- only disposition that
could lM-inaili-oftli.-sUiiisviastns.il them to glur farlorii-s. Tin- !"*: ii-tiirn 1hi-.V(j'it from the carcass was Itmii
bristles or wliiski-rs anil lh.> livers, lioth of tln-s.- were sold to Chinanu-n. Tho former they make ns.- ..!' to . l.-.ni tlu-ir
opium pipes, while the hitler is .hopped tip, pill into a mixture <>t alenhnl and another tlnid. and administered as
a radical cure for many acute diseases. The company :i< cnrdinyly gave up the plan ol sea-lion hunting, lull the
ell'ect of their brief warfare upon I In -so animals was to drive vast droves of them over tothoio, ks aliont I he Mill l!"ii-e
and the neighborhood of tin- Heads. In conse.picnee of their Ueiiig prnlected l>y law in tbfiie localities, they have
(loiililed anil irclded in nnniKer within t he past time v,.u- '' " s ' ' I-'" 11 " :1 "' a M-ry expeiisn.- luxury. It isprol.al.le


crustaceans, and sea-fowls; always with the addition of a few pebbles or smooth stones, some of
which are a pound in weight. 1 Their principal feathery food, however, is the penguin in the South-
ern Hemisphere, and the gulls in the Northern; while the manner in which they decoy and catch
the Gariot-a- of the Mexican and California coasts displays no little degree of cunning. When in
pursuit the animal dives deeply under water and swims some distance from where it disappeared;
then, rising cautiously, it exposes the tip of its nose above the surface, at the same time giving it
a rotary motion, like that of a water bug at play. The unwary bird on the wing, seeing the object
near by, alights to catch it, while the Sea Lion at the same moment settles beneath the waves, and
at one bound, with extended jaws, seizes its screaming prey, and instantly devours it. 2

"A few years ago great numbers of Sea Lions were taken along the coast of Upper and Lower
California, and thousands of barrels of oil obtained. The number of Seals slain exclusively for
their oil would appear fabulous, when we realize the fact that it requires on an average, throughout
the season, the blubber of three or four Sea Lions to produce a barrel of oil. Their thick, coarse-
grained skins were not considered worth preparing for market, in a country where manual labor
was so highly valued. At the present time, however, they are valued for glue-stock, and the
seal hunters now realize more comparative profit from the hides than from the oil. But while
the civilized sealers, plying their vocation along the seaboard of California and Mexico, destroy
the Lobo marino, for the product of its oil, skin, testes, and whiskers, the simple Aleutians of
the Alaska region derive from these animals many of their indispensable articles of domestic
use " 3

The whiskers are carefully saved and sent to China, where they are used for cleaning opium
pipes; the liverS are also used in the Chinese pharmacoposia.

Mr. Elliott, in referring to the differences between the Californian and Alaskan Sea Lions, calls
attention to the dissimilarity of their voices. The Northern Sea Lion, he says, "never barks or

that they consume more fish than are caught in the bay for food, and if they continue to increase in the future a*
in th past, it. will be but a few years before the waters of the bay will be destitute of fish. Formerly these animals

Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 12 of 146)