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How Do Humans Impact Harp Seals?

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Harp seals (Pagophilus groenlandicus) are carnivorous mid-sized pinnipeds that are plentiful throughout their home base, which includes the Arctic Ocean and the northerly stretches of the Atlantic Ocean. Although harp seals are not an endangered species, human beings regularly impact their lifestyles in numerous ways.


Humans have hunted harp seals since the 17th century seeking their flesh, pelts and oil. Seal oil is often associated with health benefits. Juvenile harp seals are prized for their soft, smooth and pure white coats, which have long been major hunting draws. Native groups often utilize their meat in meal preparation, too. Many protection and conservation missions are in place for defending harp seals as a species, however. Despite that, thousands and thousands of them are killed by people annually.

Other Human Impacts

Apart from hunting activities, people also greatly impact populations of harp seals in a few other ways. Harp seals frequently are hit and killed by boats, for example. They also often experience the detrimental effects of oil spills. When oil spills occur, the oil gets all over their coats and ultimately brings upon fatal consequences. Disturbances caused by fishing equipment also can be perilous to harp seals. Excessive fishing of species such as herring reduces their available sustenance too, which in turn hurts harp seal populations.

Predators Other Than Humans

Other species that impact harp seals are animals including killer whales, walruses, Greenland sharks and polar bears. Mother harp seals are extremely protective over their youngsters when predators are around, frequently producing piercing vocalizations.


With all of the management measures and rules implemented regarding the commercial hunting of harp seals, numbers for these migratory creatures have increased in recent years. Numbers of harp seals are believed to be rising because specimens are more frequently spotted washed up on shore locations. The international population of harp seals is thought to total almost 8 million. They are the Northern Hemisphere's most plentiful pinnipeds.