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Victoria Aquatic Wildlife: The Harbour Seal

January 24, 2014

When visiting the Victoria Harbour, Fisherman’s Wharf or taking a whale watching tour, you are very likely to see some local harbour seals swimming, hunting small fish or simply lying in the sun.

The most common and widely distributed species of its class, the harbour seal lives in coastal waters of the northern hemisphere in both Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Some regional subspecies like the California habour seal also exist.

What harbour seals look like

Harbour seals are easily recognizable by their round earless heads and distinctive v-shaped nostrils. Each harbour seal has its own spot patterns, which can be light spots on a dark fur or dark spots on a light fur. Colors vary between grey, tan and brown. Males can reach 1.85 meters long and can weigh up to 168 kilos, with females generally a bit smaller.

Where harbour seals live

As their name indicates, harbour seals live in coastal waters such as harbours. They like to colonize familiar sites where generations tend to stay. They like rocky or sandy coasts, islands and even floating ice and glaciers. Staying out of the water protects them from predators such as orcas. They can also swim up rivers in search of food.

What harbour seals eat

Harbour seals eat small fish and shellfish such as anchovy, mackerel, cod, shrimp, crabs and even small squids. Their eating habits are adapted to the prey living around their resting grounds.

Harbour seals and humans

Harbour seals are smart animals. If you spend any amount of time around them in ports and harbours, you’ll quickly see that they have learned to feed off of human attention. They will swim around and bob their head out of the water especially when humans are standing near with pieces of fish to give.

Harbour seals are a common sight during our whale watching adventures in Victoria, but it doesn’t make them less interesting creatures. Our expert guides can tell you more about these fascinating animals during your next whale watching trip!

Photo by Ken Schneider

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