Project Description

I once swam up to a Pacific harbour seal (Phoca vitulina richardsi) sleeping underwater in the bay at Whyecliff Park, near Vancouver.  The seal was asleep on the sandy bottom in just 15 feet of water, with summer beach swimmers splashing above.

Harbour seals are found in the coastal waters of the northern hemisphere, with five subspecies belonging to this group.  The Pacific harbour seal is a subspecies of harbour seal that lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Pacific harbour seals spend about half their time on land and half in the water.  They can dive to 1,500 feet for up to 40 minutes, but most of their dives last just a few minutes in shallow water.  Large eyes help the seal to see in deep water with minimal light, and long whiskers which can be positioned forward to sense or inspect objects help in these conditions as well.  The colouration of this seal is brownish black with mottled patterns of grey and white.  Adults can reach a length of just over 6 feet (1.9m), and weigh over 260 pounds (120 kg).  The Pacific harbour seal has a range from Alaska to Baja California, Mexico.