Sea Creature Feature of the Week: Harp Seal

The Harp Seal’s inclusion in the Phocidae family classifies it as a true seal. The Phocidae family is one of three lineages in the order Pinnipedia, and they have short flippers and no external ear flap. This animal may be found in the north Atlantic and Arctic waters in sub-polar to polar latitudes.

Females give birth to their woolly white fur pups from late February to mid-March, when the pack ice is accessible. These puppies are born without any protective fat, but when nursing, they grow a thick covering of blubber. Adult harp seals have light gray fur with black patchings as they mature. Every spring, tens of thousands of adults congregate to molt their fur and reproduce. They may grow to be 5 to 6 feet long and up to 300 pounds.

In 2015, the IUCN Red List evaluated the Harp Seal, Pagophilus groenlandicus, as least concern, with population trends improving. Though the status of this species is improving, it still faces several dangers. Harp seals are hunted for their meat and oil by commercial hunters. The chance of a vessel strike increases with more ship traffic. Seals can become entangled in fishing gear and other sorts of trash, causing them to drown or cause other major problems. Oil spills and chemical toxins can endanger their immune, reproductive, respiratory, and digestive systems, and oil can burn or irritate a seal’s skin. Finally, climate change has the potential to reduce the availability of sufficient sea ice for giving birth, nursing pups, and molting. The Marine Mammal Protection Act helps protect Harp Seals from these dangers.

What sea creature are you most interested in learning more about? Leave a comment below!