Back to Categories

Harbor Seal - Phoca vitulina
Photo by Howard Hall

Harbor seals belong to the family of phocids, which are sometimes called earless seals due to the lack of an external ear flap. Harbor seals can often be spotted on rocks near the water’s edge with their head and flippers elevated in order to be warmed by the sun’s rays. They are very curious, and when living in areas frequented by snorkelers and scuba divers, they will often interact with these visitors. Harbor seals will often play together and hunt for small fish, crabs and various other animals that reside in shallow waters and on the sea floor.

Harbor Seal
(Phoca vitulina)

From Japan north to the Bering Sea

Open water and in coastal regions, especially near kelp forests and sandy beaches.

Octopus, squid, fish, and crustaceans


The status of this species is representative of the populations within the waters of this Sanctuary only, not global populations.

Quick Fact
Harbor seals can move swiftly underwater propelling themselves with undulating hind flippers, yet they are slow and awkward on the land.

Learn More
- Marine Mammal Pages