Phoca vitulina (harbour seal)

Phoca vitulina, the Harbour or Common seal, is a marine mammal frequently seen around the UK coastline.

Harbour seals are vulnerable to viral distemper which is causing mass mortalities, losses were particularly high in 1988 and 2002.

Since these seals spend much of their time in water, estimating population numbers is not easy but worryingly, numbers are declining progressively. 

Species detail

Adult animals are typically no larger than 1.5m and at low-tide can be found together with their pups at mass haul-out sites.

Adults are capable of dispersing widely throughout the North Sea but more usually stay 5-20 km around their haul-out sites, diving and locally foraging for food

  • Adult harbour seals

    Discover the areas that harbour seals are known from.

  • Juvenile harbour seal

    Find out about the sexual activity of harbour seals, the species they can be found alongside and the virus that they are vulnerable to.

  • Adult harbour seal

    Tagging devices are used to monitor the behaviour of harbour seals. Find out what these tagging devices have revealed about the species.

  • Adult harbour seals

    Monitoring seal populations is challenging. Find out how you can play an important role in helping authorities locate sickened members of this species.


Phoca vitulina

The harbour seal (Phoca vitulina)


Dr Russel Stothard

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