Overall, Canada’s seal populations are healthy, and increasing. In fact, harp and grey seals are so abundant there are concerns about over-population, and without a properly planned, sustainable harvest, the seal herd will be managed by nature, via starvation and disease.
The latest estimates for seal populations found in Canada:
- Harp seal: 7.4 million individuals
- Grey seal: 505,000 individuals
- Hooded seal: 593,000 individuals (2005)
- Ringed seal: 1.5 million
- Harbour seals (protected from hunting): 25,000 Atlantic Canada; 100,000 British Columbia
- Bearded seals: unknown
- Northern fur seal: 1.29 million (worldwide)
The primary natural predators of seals are sharks, killer whales, and polar bears. Birds of prey, wolves, and wolverines target the smallest pups. In many regions of Canada, seals are relatively safe from natural predators. Even humans are not having the effects they once did—the seal harvest has been greatly reduced from its historic levels. The modern harvest sustainable, highly regulated and well-managed.
In recent years, the Total Allowable Catches determined by scientists and set by the government have not been fulfilled, primarily due to the loss of local and international markets for seal products.
“There is some evidence to suggest that the Northwest Atlantic harp seal population may be reaching levels close to its natural carrying capacity, which is the maximum number of individuals of a particular species that can be sustained by that species’ ecosystem.”
—Government of Canada