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Theme area:  Lagon
Scientific name:  Phoca vitulina
Class:  Mammals
Order:   Carnivores
Suborder:   Pinnipeds
Family:   Phocidae
Continent:  North America
Habitat:  Oceans and seas
Diet:  Piscivore
Weight:  60 - 150 kg
Size:  1.5 - 1.9 m
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Of the 18 seal species, this is one of the smallest. There is no real difference in size between males and females. Their bodies are streamlined. Their coats are light, with numerous spots that vary in shape and color.


Males measure 1.6 to 1.9 m, weighing 70 to 150kg, and reach sexual maturity between the ages of 4 and 6. Females measure between 1.5 and 1.7m, weighing between 60 and 110kg. She reaches sexual maturity between 3 and 5 years. Newborns measure between 80cm and 1m. They weigh 8 to 12kg and are weaned between 20 and 40 days after birth.

Longevity is estimated at between 30 and 35 years, with females generally living longer than males.


The temperate and cold coasts of the Atlantic and North Pacific oceans.

The harbor seal is one of the world's most widespread pinnipeds.

It is also part of the French fauna.


Harbour seals live along coastlines, exploiting sandy and pebble beaches, rocky or grassy areas. They can be found in bays, rivers, estuaries and tidal zones.


Harbour seals are solitary animals. However, groupings of individuals can be observed, which may be more related to an abundance of food resources than to social activity.

Males appropriate underwater territories. They attract females by vocalizing underwater. Mating takes place in the water.

Gestation lasts 11 months, including 1.5 to 3 months of nidation. During this period, the embryo is implanted but does not develop. If the mother's living conditions are good, the fetus develops. Births take place from mid-March to early September. Females give birth to a single young per year. The pup loses its lanugo (white or silvery coat typical of the seal family) in the womb, and is born with the coat of the juvenile.

Females ovulate one month after giving birth. Then comes the moult.

Harbour seals emerge from the water to rest, moult or nurse their pups. Extremely cautious and shy on land, they stay close to the water to seek refuge in case of danger. Once in the water, they lose their shyness and become more curious. These animals are not migratory. Only the search for food can keep them away from the coast for several days at a time.


Harbour seals are opportunistic predators. It feeds on a wide variety of fish, cephalopods and crustaceans, generally found at depths of less than 100 meters.


Since the 1970s, harbor seals have not been hunted by humans, except by Alaskans, who are allowed to harvest them for their own consumption.

Harbour seals share many coastal areas with humans. Chemical and noise pollution are therefore major threats to this species.

Overfishing can greatly diminish their food resources, as well as putting them at risk of being caught in fishermen's nets.


  • Reduce waste.
  • Reduce disturbance around areas used by the species.
  • Consume fish from eco-responsible fisheries.


Did you know?

Seal pups are known to be born with a white coat called languo.