The Harbour Seal is one of only two seal species found within the UK. It can easily be identified by its distinctive V-shaped nostrils. Their colour can vary from a grey, brown or tan.


At present there are 5 different subspecies of Harbour Seal, each with their own niche habitat. This ranges across most of the northern hemisphere in the north Pacific and Atlantic seas.


The diet of Harbour Seals consists of fish, such as herring, mackerel and cod, molluscs, and crustaceans. These animals travel up to 50km (30 miles) over several days in pursuit of prey.

Predators & Threats

Many of the species that make up the harbour seals’ diet are target species for commercial fisheries, as a result, these animals are sometimes caught up in nets. As marine mammals breath air, this accidental capture can end up drowning the seal if the net is not raised in time. Hunting is also commonplace in countries such as Norway, Iceland and Greenland. This has seen a disappearance of seals in Greenland. Other threats include; infectious disease, human disturbance and environmental contamination with the use of chemicals. Predators of the Common Seal include large birds of prey, Killer Whales and Polar Bears.


  • Males fight for females both on land and in the water.
  • Baby harbour seals can swim and dive just hours after they are born.
Common Name(s)Scientific Name
Harbour Seal, Common SealPhoca vitulina
 1.5-1.9 m
 Males: 20-25 years. Females 30-35 years.

Best Time to Look

All year round, however June and July is their pupping season, so they are more often on the shore.

Where to find Harbour Seal