Harbor Seal (Phoca vitulina)
Did You Know?
- Potential Financial Assistance Program for Pinnipeds off Alaska
- Harbor seal pups can swim at birth and can dive for up to 2 minutes when they are only 2-3 days old.
- Harbor seals are the most common seal seen along the U.S. east coast.
|about 245 pounds (110 kg)|
|about 6 feet (~2 m)|
|generally blue-gray back with light and dark speckling; they lack external ear flaps and have short forelimbs|
|about 25-30 years|
|mainly fish, shellfish, and crustaceans|
|they tend to haul out on land and rest with head and flippers elevated, in a banana-like fashion|
Male harbor seals are slightly larger than females, weigh up to 245 pounds (110 kg), and measure about 6 feet (1.8 m) in length. Harbor seals in Alaska and the Pacific Ocean are generally larger than those found in the Atlantic Ocean. Harbor seals' color varies but they often have a blue-gray back with light and dark speckling. They have short, concave, dog-like snouts, and they tend haul out on land and rest with head and flippers elevated, in a banana like fashion.
Harbor seals eat a variety of prey consisting mainly of fish, shellfish, and crustaceans. Researchers have found that seals complete both shallow and deep dives during hunting depending on the availability of prey (Tollit et al. 1997).
Harbor seals mate at sea and females give birth during the spring and summer; although, the pupping season varies with latitude. Pups are nursed for an average of 24 days and are ready to swim minutes after being born.
Video: Harbor seal monitoring in Puget Sound
- incidental capture in fishing gear, including
- purse seines
- ship strikes
- oil spill exposure
- chemical contaminants
- power plant entrainment
- harassment by humans while hauled out on land
The MMPA's moratorium on taking marine mammals has limited hunting of harbor seals to Alaska Natives for subsistence and handicraft purposes. Therefore, bounty hunting of harbor seals and other marine mammals no longer occurs.
In 2001, a co-management agreement [pdf] was signed between NMFS and the Alaska Native Harbor Seal Commission to promote the health of harbor seals in order to
- protect the culture of the natives
- promote scientific research to facilitate management decisions
- identify management conflicts
- provide information to the public to promote sustainable use, management, and conservation
In an effort to educate the public about proper wildlife viewing, NMFS and our collaborators created regional guidelines for seal watching.Kingdom: Animalia
|"Not Warranted" 12-month Finding on Iliamna Lake harbor seals petition||81 FR 81074||11/17/2016|
Positive 90-day finding on petition to list harbor seals in Iliamna Lake, Alaska, under the ESA
|78 FR 29098||05/17/2013|
|Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to Protect Glacially-associated Harbor Seal Habitats in Alaska||78 FR 15669||03/12/2013|
|Co-Management Action Plan||n/a||01/2001|
|Stock Assessment Reports||n/a||various|
- NMFS National Marine Mammal Laboratory Harbor Seal Information and Research
- NOAA Unmanned Aircraft Helping Scientists Learn About Alaskan Ice Seals: Polar Ecosystems Program Research Cruise
- NMFS Alaska Regional Office Harbor Seal Information
- NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center Harbor Seal Information
- Marine Mammal Commission Harbor Seal Information
- NMFS West Coast Regional Office FAQs on Safely Deterring Seals & Sea Lions
- Hoover, A.A. 1988. Harbor seal Phoca vitulina. In: Selected Marine Mammals of Alaska: Species Accounts with Research and Management Recommendations (J.W. Lentfer, ed), pp. 125-157. Marine Mammal Commission, Washington, DC.
- Tollit, DJ., S.PR. Greenstreet, and P.M. Thompson. 1997. Prey Selection by harbor seals, Phoca vitulina, in relation to variation in prey abundance. Canadian Journal of Zoology 75, 1508-1518.
Updated: November 16, 2016