Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player


Search in the Encyclopedia

Dieren en planten

Mens en Milieu

Harp seal


Around 1.70 meter


Around 130 kilogram


Males: silver grey with dark brown saddle-shaped spot on the back
Females: silver grey with dark brown or black spots


30-35 years


Fish, krill and crustaceans


Swimming and hobbling


People, polar bears and orcas


mature: age five
number: one young per birth

  • Dut: zadelrob
  • Eng: harp seal
  • Fren: phoque du Groenland
  • Ger: Sattelrobbe
  • Lat: Phoca groenlandica (Pagophilus groenlandica)
  • Dan: Grønlandsæl
  • Nor: Grønlandssel
Harp seal, IFAW

Harp seal

Harp seals have a very healthy appetite. Because fishermen have always seen them as competitors, they have been hunted since earlier days. The fur of a newly born pup was also very desirable. It is presently forbidden to hunt these very young seals. Harp seals are still hunted in Canada and Norway, but the animals must be older than three weeks. Although harp seals are closely related to harbour seals, they don't live in the North Sea. A lost seal is only occasionally spotted along the Dutch coast.

On Texel

Jonge zadelrob, Salko de Wolf

There have been two occasions a harp seal was found on Texel. In 1987, a live seal was brought to Ecomare in and later released. In 1996, a dead seal was found in such good physical condition, it was preserved and added to Ecomare's educational collection. Ecomare also has bones from harp seals dating back to the last glacial period when the harp seal was the most prominent seal species in the North Sea region.

  • Distrubution harp seal
    General distribution region of the harp seal, Ecomare

    Harp seals live in the northern Atlantic Ocean, Barents Sea, eastern Greenland and eastern Canada.

  • Beaching along the Dutch coast
    Harp seal, Ecomare

    From 1987 to 1991, a notably large amount of harp seals were stranded along the Dutch, German, Danish and northern French coasts. There were 35 reports all together with practically all of the reports in March or April. Such an invasion most likely occurred in the years 1901-1903 when a greater number of adult harp seals than normal swam south as well. In between these invasions, there were occasional reports of a lost harp seal.

    DatePlace and details
    shortly after 1945 Zeeland (report via fur buyer)
    25 February 1987 Rottumerplaat
    2 March 1987 Texel, young male, released by Ecomare
    25 March 1987 Veerse dam
    26 March 1987 Renesse
    1 April 1987 Ameland,young male
    7 April 1987 Schiermonnikoog
    9 April 1987 Den Oever
    10 April 1987 Vlieland
    early April 1987 Terschelling
    3 March 1988 Noordwijk
    28 March 1988 Lauwersoog
    25 February 1990 Terschelling, young male
    15 March 1990 Den Helder
    1 January 1994 Terschelling; alive, released by seal sanctuary Pieterburen
    11 January 1995 Brouwersdam
    7 April 1996 Texel, dead, extraordinarily large female
    February 1997 Terschelling, live one-year old female; released by seal sanctuary Pieterburen
    24 March 2005 Zeeland, live adult male, 130 kg
    August 2006 Frisian coast, live young female, 5 months old
    * unless otherwise stated, beachings were always adult or nearly adult males

Wild predators in the Netherlands