*Sharper Hooks*
*Tighter Lines*
Harbour Seal




Harbour seal

Harbour seal. Photo Credit: Jean-François Gosselin
Photo Credit: Jean-François Gosselin

Size: adults can attain a length of 1.85 m and weigh about 110 kg.

Feeding habits: Harbour seals feed upon a variety of fish and invertebrates as available, including sandlance, herring, pollock, cod, capelin and squid.

Reproduction and life cycle: Birthing of pups occurs annually on shore. The timing of the pupping season varies with location, occurring in February for populations in lower latitudes, and as late as July in the subarctic zone. Pups are capable of swimming and diving within hours and nurse for three to four weeks, doubling their weight by the time of weaning.

Lifespan: 30–35 years for females and 20–25 years for males.

Distribution: Harbour seals arefound along temperate and Arctic marine coastlines of the Northern Hemisphere. They are found in coastal waters of the northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, as well as those of the Baltic and North Seas. In Canada, they may be found off the coastal waters of British Columbia, Nunavut, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Population trends: The global harbour seal population is 5-6 million, but subspecies in certain habitats have been reduced or eliminated through outbreaks of disease (especially the phocine distemper virus) and conflict with humans. Populations of harbour seals in British Columbia have been increasing since hunting ended in 1967 and are estimated to number around 100,000 animals. Abundance in Atlantic Canada is unknown but thought to have been reduced due to a hunt and bounty program that ended in the early 1970s. There are an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 harbour seals in Atlantic Canada.

Conservation status in Canada: The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) designated harbour seals ‘Not at Risk’ in November 2007.

Source: Fisheries and Oceans Canada