The Harbour Seal

Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Also known as the common seal, it is a true seal found along temperate and Arctic marine coastlines of the Northern Hemisphere. The most widely distributed species of pinniped (walruses, eared seals, and true seals), they are found in coastal waters of the northern Atlantic, Pacific Oceans, Baltic and North Seas. Colouration can vary widely from nearly black to pure white. They often rest and sleep underwater or on haul outs. 

  • Length; 1.5 metres, 
  • Weight; 100kg,
  • Life span; 20 years,
  • Gestation; 9 months 


Birthing of pups occurs annually on shore. The timing of the pupping season varies with location, occurring in February for populations in lower latitudes, and as late as July in the subarctic zone. The mothers are the sole providers of care, with lactation lasting 24 days. The single pups are born well developed, capable of swimming and diving within hours. Suckling for three to four weeks, pups feed on the mother’s rich, fatty milk and grow rapidly; born weighing up to 16 kilograms, the pups may double their weight by the time of weaning.

Reports of abandoned or stranded seal pups are common from June to September during Harbour Seal pupping season. Seal pups stay with their mothers for 4-6 weeks after birth. Pups whose mothers are away for foraging are often believed abandoned or orphaned resulting in unnecessary intervention. 

If you see a seal that you think is in urgent need of care, call: 

Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre at 

604.258.SEAL (7325) and they will instruct you on how best to proceed. 

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