Eco-Tourism, Elephant Seals, and Funding


Charmaine Coimbra   

Tourists, worldwide,  either randomly fall upon the elephant seal view site at Piedras Blancas, just north of San Simeon, Ca., or they stop to view the unique marine mammals because they know this site is one of a few available for an up close and personal experience.   

The last time humans were actively up close and personal with the northern elephant seal, brought these mammals to near extinction.  That was in the  1800’s and a two-ton male elephant seal would render about 200-gallons of high-grade oil.  These beasts, who lay on the beach like lazy beach bums, were much easier to render than a passing grey whale.    

A young elephant seal at Piedras Blancas

In a time when industrial America was rising to the top, the slaughter of northern elephant seals for oil to drive the machine (or light lamps or grease lips), was the proverbial cost of doing business.  “They’ll make more, won’t they?”  (But who was “they?)   

By the late 1800’s the northern elephant seal was deemed extinct.  You can read the details  here:   

My point is that the northern elephant seal is baaaack and the whole world wants to see them.  Enter Friends of the Elephant Seal.  This group’s mission is to educate the thousands of visitors about the elephant seal and the California Central Coast marine environment.  It’s a task that requires docent training, maintaining docent presence out on the bluffs, providing educational material– at no charge– to the thousands of Piedras Blancas visitors.  It’s a costly mission that relies on donated funding.   

Finding funds is now like finding northern elephant seals in the late 1800’s.  Funds are near extinct.   

This writer has taken on the task of fundraising for Friends of the Elephant Seal by coordinating this year’s Sunset at San Simeon (SASS) fundraiser.  The team has freshened the event by featuring sustainable food for dinner, bringing in four quality local artists, rounding up donated wines from Central Coast wineries, along with donated merchandise and services from Big Sur to Pismo Beach.   

Chef Dakota Weiss, who’s been in the forefront of sustainable seafood since her days as executive sous chef for the Ritz-Carlton club in Sarasota, Fl., has created a dish just for Sunset at San Simeon:  California Seafood Bake.  She’ll also present sustainable seafood as appetizers while Harmony Cellars pours wine for tasting–all on the bluff above San Simeon cove, on a unique piece of property donated by the Hearst Ranch. Dinner will also feature Hearst Ranch grass-fed beef barbecued Texas-style.   

Some of the best wineries in the Paso Robles area have donated wines that pair well with both seafood and beef.    

Visit for more information about this March 20, 2010 event.    

Ecotourism at Piedras Blancas

Categories: nature, Sustainable Seafood, Travel Discovery

Tags: , ,

1 reply


  1. It’s 3 a.m. It’s Quiet Everywhere, Except Inside My Head « Charmaine’s Muse Pallet

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