Entanglement, Illegal feeding and harassment, Habitat degradation and also loss, chemistry contaminants, Oil spills and also energy exploration, vessel collisions, Disturbance, condition
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harbor seals in Chatham MA - Photo: rebab.net rebab.net

Harbor seals are among the most typical marine mammals follow me the U.S. West and also East Coasts. Lock are frequently seen resting on rocks and also beaches follow me the coast and on floating ice in glacial fjords with their head and rear flippers elevated in a “banana-like” position.

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State-financed bounty hunters once hunted harbor seals in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Massachusetts, and Maine since they to be considered rivals of fishermen. This hunting program ended in 1960.

Harbor seals, like all marine mammals, are protected under the marine Mammal protection Act.


Population Status

In the joined States, rebab.net rebab.net has identified 16 share of port seals. Twelve of these stocks space in Alaska, and also the various other 4 are the California, Oregon-Washington coastal, Washington inland waters, and also the western phibìc Atlantic stocks. In Alaska, there room the Aleutian Islands, Pribilof Islands, Bristol Bay, phibìc Kodiak, southern Kodiak, Prince william Sound, cook Inlet/Shelikof Strait, Glacier Bay/Icy Strait, Lynn Canal/Stephens Passage, Sitka/Chatham Strait, Dixon/Cape Decision, and also Clarence Strait stocks. The Bristol Bay share in Alaska contains a small population of freshwater harbor seals the live in Iliamna lake, situated in Southcentral Alaska. 

Each stock has experienced different populace trends over the past 30 years. Along the West Coast, stocks are stable or unknown and also the populace in brand-new England shows up to be stable. Separation, personal, instance breeding and also molting nests can number in the thousands in several of these areas. While many of the 12 harbor seal share in Alaska are stable or boosting over the past 8 years, seals in the Aleutian Islands, Glacier Bay, and Icy Strait regions have likely declined. There is a tiny but supposedly stable populace of less than 500 port seals in the Pribilof Islands.

Learn much more about our estimates for populace size in our stock assessment reports

Protected Status


MMPA safeguarded throughout Its range

Appearance


Harbor seals are component of the true seal family. All true seals have short forelimbs, or flippers. They also lack exterior ear flaps and instead have a little hole (opening come the ear canal) top top either side of your head.

Harbor seals weigh as much as 285 pounds and measure as much as 6 feet in length. Males are slightly larger than females, and seals in Alaska and also the Pacific s are normally larger 보다 those uncovered in the Atlantic Ocean.

Harbor seals have short, dog-like snouts. The shade of each seal’s hair varies yet there room two an easy patterns: light tan, silver, or blue-gray with dark speckling or spots, and also a dark background v light rings. Harbor seals molt (shed hair) in the mid to late summer for 1-2 months, spending more time out of the water.


Behavior and also Diet


Harbor seals haul out (rest) on rocks, reefs, beaches, and also drifting glacial ice as soon as they room not travel and/or foraging at sea. Lock haul out to regulate their human body temperature, molt, communicate with other seals, give birth, and also nurse your pups. These seals additionally haul the end in teams to stop predators and also spend less time being watchful for predators 보다 those the haul the end alone.

Harbor seal pelvic bones space fused, staying clear of them from relocating their hind flippers under their pelvis to walk top top land prefer sea lions. Instead, they relocate by undulating in a caterpillar-like motion. This habits does not mean they room injured.

Harbor seal pups have the right to swim in ~ birth. They can also dive for approximately 2 minutes once they are just 2 to 3 job old and by the finish of their an initial month of life embark ~ above journeys of over 100 mile from their natal area. Mommy harbor seals periodically raise your pups in nurseries—groups the mothers and also their young—that assist protect the seals indigenous predators.

The port seal’s diet consists mainly the fish, shellfish, and also crustaceans. Harbor seals complete both shallow and deep dives while hunting, depending upon the ease of access of prey. They have the right to sleep underwater and also come up for air once every 30 minutes.


Where lock Live


Harbor seals live in temperate seaside habitats along the northern coasts of north America, Europe, and Asia. They happen on the U.S. East and West coasts. ~ above the east Coast, port seals are discovered from the Canadian Arctic come the Mid-Atlantic. Port seals are found all follow me the West coastline of north America, from Baja California, Mexico to the Bering Sea. They have actually long been considered non-migratory and typically continue to be within 15 to 31 miles of your natal area, but tracking data have shown they periodically travel 62 come 486 miles from their tagging location, often to make use of seasonally obtainable food or offer birth to pups.


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world map offering approximate depiction of the harbor seal selection

Lifespan & Reproduction


Harbor seals reach sex-related maturity between 3 and 7 year old. When females usually give birth throughout the spring and also summer, the pupping season different by location. Along the West Coast, pups space born previously in the south than in the north. The only exception is harbor seals in the inland waters the Washington, which space born 2 months later on than seals along the outer coast of Washington.

Harbor seals girlfriend in the water. Females space pregnant for around 10 months. Pups weigh around 24 pounds at birth and are prepared to swim within minutes. Castle nurse because that 4 come 6 mainly on milk the is 50 percent fat. Like adults, seal pups haul the end to rest and regulate your body temperature. Adult females forage during lactation.


Threats


Entanglement

Harbor seals can end up being entangled in fishing gear and other varieties of naval debris, either swimming off through the equipment attached or coming to be anchored. Castle can end up being entangled in countless different fishing gear types, consisting of gillnets, trawls, purse seines, or weirs. When entangled, seals might drown if they cannot reach the surface to breathe, or they may drag attached gear for long ranges as lock swim, ultimately resulting in fatigue, endangered feeding ability, or serious injury, every one of which might lead to diminished reproductive success and even death.

Illegal Feeding and Harassment

Illegal feeding of port seals deserve to lead to countless problems consisting of habituation, aggression, an unfavorable impacts to rebab.net, entanglement, injury, and death. Harassment, including repeated exposure to vessel traffic and also other disturbance, deserve to degrade essential nursery, molting, and haul out locations for port seals. Boosted vessel web traffic can additionally cause altered behavior, increased energetic expenditures, and increased exposure to stress. Because that example, in Alaska, vessel traffic deserve to displace seals from ice floes, placing pups at danger from raised time spent in cold water and separation from their mothers.

Learn an ext about the Alaska port seal approach guidelines in glacial fjords (PDF, 2 pages)

Habitat Degradation

Harbor seals room susceptible to habitat loss and also degradation. Physical barriers, which may include shoreline and offshore structures for breakthrough (e.g., because that oil and gas, dredging, heap driving), can limit access to crucial migration, breeding, feeding, molting, or pupping areas. Oil and also gas development, commercial and also recreational advance (including resort development), and increased vessel traffic may displace seals or their food that would generally use those areas.

Chemical Contaminants

Contaminants go into ocean waters from many sources, including oil and also gas development, wastewater discharges, farming and urban runoff, and other industrial processes. As soon as in the environment, these substances relocate up the food chain and also accumulate in height predators such as harbor seals. These chemicals do not degrade. Port seals accumulate contaminants, i beg your pardon threaten your immune and reproductive systems, in their blubber, blood, and organs (for example, liver or brain). This chemicals can be passed on to their pups during pregnancy and also in milk.

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Vessel Collisions

Inadvertent vessel collisions have the right to injure or death harbor seals. Port seals are fragile to ship collisions throughout your range, yet the risk is much greater in some coastal areas with heavy vessel traffic.


Scientific Classification

Kingdom Phylum class bespeak family Genus types
AnimaliaChordataMammaliaCarnivoraPhocidaePhocavitulina