Unsupported Browser Detected

Internet Explorer lacks support for the features of this website. For the best experience, please use a modern browser such as Chrome, Firefox, or Edge.

Seal and Sea Lion Week

March 20, 2023

Join us for a week-long celebration of seals and other pinnipeds and get the scoop on NOAA's seal conservation efforts.

An animation showing several species of seals in their native habitats with the words "Seal & Sea Lion Week" across the top. Seal & Sea Lion Week is March 20-24, 2023.
Join us for Seal and Sea Lion Week, March 20–24, 2023, to learn more about the many different seal species we manage, protect, and study. Find out why seals are sentinels for ocean health and climate change. Explore the features below to learn about NOAA’s conservation efforts and methods. 

Seal Features and Highlights

California Sea Lions as Ecosystem Indicators

California sea lions are outstanding ecosystem indicators because they consume a variety of forage species. Changes in their diet over time can be linked to changing ocean conditions that affect the availability of their prey. We've been studying their diet for 40 years by analyzing their scat (aka poop!). 

Learn more about the connection between sea lion diet and climate change

Several brown and tan California sea lions rest on top of rocky ground with seabirds while tidal wave crashes in the background.
California sea lions at San Nicholas Island in the southern Channel Islands. Credit: U.S. Navy/Greg Sanders

Seals, Sea Lions, and Climate Change: Shifting Prey and Habitat Impacts

Several seal and sea lions species are sensitive to the impacts of climate change due to their dependence on specific environmental conditions during different times of the year. For example, ice seals need sea ice to rest, breed, nurse and rear pups, molt, and avoid predators—less sea ice leaves them vulnerable to predators and other threats.

Learn more about the threat of climate change for several seal and sea lion species

Juvenile, spotted harp seal on sheet of ice floating above water near snowy/icy land.
A juvenile harp seal is monitored in Rye, New Hampshire. The seal was eventually relocated by trained responders because it moved too close to a main road. Credit: Seacoast Science Center

Seal or Sea Lion?

Seals and sea lions are both pinnipeds, which means fin or flipper-footed in Latin. Although seals and sea lions have similarities, they also have several distinct characteristics and adaptations that distinguish them from one another.

Learn how to tell seals and sea lions apart 

Infographic showing illustrated seal and sea lion and describing the differences between the two animals, such as ears, body size, flippers, etc.
At first glance, seals (true or “eared seals”) and sea lions look fairly similar. Taking a closer look, these are some of the general differences to tell these animals, such as on the harbor seal (left) and California sea lion (right) pictured above.

Seal & Sea Lion Week 2023: Celebrating Science and Safety

We are highlighting the science, conservation, and management of seals and sea lions.

Learn more about what makes them keystone species in marine ecosystems

Black Hawaiian monk seal pup lies on its back, wide-eyed, on a sandy shore and looks into the camera.
Hawaiian monk seal pup taking it easy on a beach in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Credit: NOAA Fisheries Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program

6 Ways We Study Seals and Sea Lions

When it comes to studying seals and seal lions, these methods get a “seal of approval” from our scientists.

How we study seals and sea lions

Baby seal with rookery and beach in background
Fur seal.

Conserving Hawaiian Monk Seals Through Protections and Vaccinations

NOAA scientists are vaccinating endangered Hawaiian monk seals against a strain of morbillivirus. They’ve completed 700 successful vaccinations—that’s nearly half the population. It’s the world’s first attempt to protect this wild marine mammal from a deadly outbreak. 

Conserving and protecting Hawaiian monk seals

A Hawaiian monk seal rests on the beach in the French Frigate Shoals
A Hawaiian monk seal rests on the beach in the French Frigate Shoals. Credit: Mark Sullivan.

An Entangled Web: Research Collaboration Unravels Causes and Consequences of Sea Lion Entanglements

Tracking individual sea lions helps reveal toll on species.

Research collaboration unravels causes and consequences of sea lion entanglements

disentangled sea lion on beach with a satellite tag on back
California sea lion “Bubbles” released after disentanglement, heading back to the ocean with a satellite tag to help us better understand their movements. Photo credit: Jeff Harris, NMFS Permit 16087-02

Hawaiian Monk Seal Updates

Get the latest monk seal updates—including new pups, relocations, and seal rescues—from NOAA Fisheries in the Pacific Islands.

Hawaiian monk seal updates 

Hawaiian monk seal resting on his back on a remote beach.
A temporary satellite tag allows NOAA to monitor Koalani’s exploration of his ocean environment (when he’s not napping!). Credit: Hawaii Marine Animal Response (NOAA Fisheries Permit #18786)

An Isolated Population of Antarctic Fur Seals Could Save the Species, but They’re Disappearing

Losing fur seals from the South Shetland Islands means losing crucial genetic diversity the species may need to adapt to rapid climate change.

Isolated population of Antarctic fur seals

fur seal pups on rocky beach, Antarctica
Antarctic fur seal pups at Cape Shirreff, Livingston Island, Antarctica. MMPA permit number: 25786. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Sergio Morales

Condition of Seals Declined During Rapid Warming in Alaska

A new study finds quantitative evidence of climate-related impacts on these typically adaptable, resilient predators.

Photo of a spotted seal mother and pup sitting on an ice floe.
Spotted seal mother and pup in the Bering Sea. Photo: NOAA Fisheries.

14 Seal Secrets

Check out some facts about these semi-aquatic marine mammals.

See 14 seal secrets

Adult male ribbon seal hauled out on sea ice
Ribbon seal. Credit:NOAA Fisheries

More Fun Facts about Surprising Seals

Want to know more about those cute bewhiskered seals? Look no further!

Check out seal facts

Gray seal pups - Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries

Studying Northern Fur Seals in Remote Alaska

Scientists plan to further test drones to help conduct their research more efficiently.

Studying northern fur seals in remote Alaska

Photo of Katie Sweeney, holding a remote control console, and Brian Fadely, holding a drone, on a Bogoslof Island beach..
Katie Sweeney and Brian Fadely prepare to launch a drone on Bogoslof Island, Alaska. Photo: NOAA Fisheries.

Share the Shore with Seals

Please, No Selfies with the Seals: 6 Ways to View Wildlife Responsibly

Although it can be tempting to try to get close to marine animals, it’s always best to view them from a safe and respectful distance for their safety—and yours. Learning how to interact with and observe ocean animals can help you make the right decisions when you encounter them by water, land, or air. 

6 Ways to View Wildlife Responsibly

It's normal for me to be on shore. I don't need to go swimming. I'm resting and need my space. I'm not a selfie prop! Please stay back at least one hundred feet. Share the Shore

Sharing Seal Space by the Seashore: Introduction to the Greater Atlantic Marine Mammal Stranding Network

Explore the story map, which shows seal strandings in the Greater Atlantic Region and highlights the organizations that provide emergency response and rehabilitation for stranded seals.

Sharing seal space by the sea shore story map

Harbor seals near the water on the beach in Chatham, Ma.
Harbor seals in Chatham, Massachusetts.

Unusual Mortality Events

NOAA scientists also learn about pinnipeds when they are injured, sick, or dead. To understand the health of marine mammal populations, scientists study Unusual Mortality Events. Learn more about the two recent, ongoing pinniped unusual mortality events below.

2022-2023 Pinniped Unusual Mortality Event along the Maine Coast

Since June 2022, elevated numbers of harbor seal and gray seal mortalities have occurred across the southern and central coast of Maine. This event has been declared an unusual mortality event.

2022-2023 Pinniped Unusual Mortality Event

MMOME (Marine Mammals of Maine)
Credit: Marine Mammals of Maine.

2018–2022 Ice Seal Unusual Mortality Event in Alaska

Since June 1, 2018, elevated ice seal strandings have occurred in the Bering and Chukchi seas in Alaska. This event has been declared an Unusual Mortality Event.

2018–2022 Ice Seal Unusual Mortality Event

Dead Spotted Jpeg.jpg
A hunter from Kotlik counted 18 dead seals along 11 miles of shore, north of Kotlik. Taken May 7, 2019 Credit: Harold Okitkun

Last updated by Office of Protected Resources on April 24, 2023

Seals & Sea Lions