Harbor seal gains official R.I. recognition

Harbor seal gains official R.I. recognition

The Westerly Sun


WESTERLY — Thanks to a team effort from the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce, North Kingstown Chamber of Commerce and several other local organizations, the harbor seal is now the state’s official marine mammal.

The idea, approved during the recent session of the General Assembly, was originally proposed by Lisa Konicki, president of the local chamber. Konicki said her interest in the animals was piqued when she discovered through the Ocean Special Area Management Plan report that the local harbor seal population has increased and is considered to be the only resident marine mammal in the state. The seals can often be seen along the coasts of Newport, North Kingstown, Jamestown and Westerly.

The Mystic Aquarium is the designated harbor seal rescue center for the state of Rhode Island and the Roger Williams Zoo is currently doing a significant overhaul to its harbor seal exhibit.

“It became clear that the harbor seal is a big part of our local communities,” Konicki said. “I think this will support tourism and increase economic activity, especially during our shoulder season.”

The idea for an official state marine mammal came to Konicki last fall after she found that both Connecticut and Massachusetts have one. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Samuel Azzinaro and State Sen. Dennis Algiere. Konicki said legislators joined to push the idea forward. “Obviously, this isn’t the most serious piece of legislation that they passed this year as there were some very complex issues that were dealt with and this is certainly on the lighter side, but I think it’s still important to our local towns that have harbor seals. I think this will really help to build community pride.”

The Town of Westerly, Save the Bay, Roger Williams Zoo, and the Mystic Aquarium all partnered with the two chambers and offered support for the legislation.

bwhite@thewesterlysun.com


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