A common seal (Phoca vitulina) at the surface in the evening. Harbor seals are also the most widely distributed pinniped. They are found in temperate, subarctic, and arctic coastal areas on both sides of the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans. Five separate subspecies have been identified, each common to a specific coastal region.
Harbor seals are hunted primarily for their skins, oil, and meat. Their tendency to remain in the same area year-round puts them at greater risk for hunting. The Lake Ontario population was exterminated by the early 1800s, and the Greenland, Hokkaido, and Baltic Sea populations are currently under severe threat. In the Gulf of Alaska, populations have declined dramatically during the last 20-30 years.
Harbor seals are thought by a few to “compete” with commercial fisheries for food sources and unfortunately this myth results in many harbor seals being killed by humans needlessly. Like other seal species, Harbor seals are threatened by entanglement in fishing nets, particularly in gillnet fisheries.
Photographed in June by Alexander Mustard at Cairns Of Coll, Isle of Coll, Inner Hebrides, Scotland.