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National Marine Mammal Laboratory (NMML)

California Current Program

Harbor Seal Studies

photo of harbor seals
Washington harbor seal aerial survey

At present, Washington harbor seals are separated into two stocks based on genetics and pupping phenology. The division between the two stocks has been arbitrarily designated as a line north of Cape Flattery, splitting harbor seals into outer coast seals that pup in late May/early June, and inland water seals that pup in July/August. In the past, genetics samples were collected at Gray’s Harbor on the coast and at Protection Island in the Strait of Juan de Fuca 50 miles from the arbitrary boundary between the two stocks.

In June 2005, a cooperative study between NMML, the Washington Department and Fish and Wildflife, and Makah Fisheries Management was begun to assess the appropriateness of the present harbor seal stock boundary. On 23-24 June, 13 genetic and blood samples were collected from unweaned pups at Father and Son and Bodelteh Islands, 4 and 6 miles from the boundary on the Washington coast. In July, unweaned pups will be sampled in the western Strait of Juan de Fuca, and aerial surveys will begin to determine pupping phenology in the western strait.

By Harriet Huber


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