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Animals Up-Close

Encounters with the animals that call Mystic Aquarium home

Animals Up-Close: Learn More
All animals
Phoca vitulina

Harbor Seals


Average lengths up to 6 feet, with weights ranging from 180 to 285 pounds


Mainly fish, shellfish, and crustaceans


Temperate coastal habitats. Harbor Seals haul out on rocks, reefs, beaches, and drifting glacial ice when they are not foraging for food


Northern coasts of North America, Europe, and Asia. U.S. East coast from the Canadian Arctic to the Mid-Atlantic. U.S. West coast from Baja California, Mexico to the Bering Sea.

Conservation Status


Least Concern


Near Threatened








Extinct in Wild



Harbor seals can sleep underwater, coming up for air every 30 minutes.

Harbor seals typically do not stray far from an area that they know.

Harbor seals are from the ‘true seal’ family as they lack an external ear flap and have limited mobility with their flipper structure.  Harbor seals are good swimmers, assisted by their streamlined shape, but are quite restricted on land. They are unable to support their body weight on their pectoral flippers and flop themselves on the ground to move about. 

Although they spend most of their life in salt water, they will travel hundreds of miles upriver for food. Here at Mystic Aquarium, they thrive with regular feedings that can include up to 15 pounds of restaurant-quality fish and squid.

While many of the Aquarium’s harbor seals can be found in the Pacific Northwest habitat, it is not uncommon to see the likes of Coral, Bristol, and others in the Arctic Coast habitat as well.


Harbor Seal Quick Facts


Protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act


Human interaction injuries like entanglement, harassment, oil spills, pollution and habitat loss

Seals Up Close Encounter

Who doesn’t love harbor seals? Get to know more about these beloved creatures, hear their stories of survival, and learn about their natural history, animal care, enrichment training, adaptations, and current conservation issues.