Harp Seal, Prince Edward Island National Park, Canada

Harp seals are protected in the United States by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Although they are not considered endangered, as sea ice melting earlier and earlier each year, available harp seal breeding grounds are being lost in the North Atlantic and Arctic. 

“Every March, up to 200,000 harp seal pups are born on sea ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In 2011, storms and lack of ice-cover due to a warmer winter climate resulted in hundreds of seal pups being washed up on the shore of Prince Edward Island. Like many, this young seal faced an uncertain future. Nearly three weeks old, it was weaned but not yet ready to swim on its own, leaving it vulnerable to predation or drowning. For me, this image expresses the vulnerability of not only this individual, but the entire harp seal population.” -- Nature's Best Photographer, John Sylvester

See more winning photo's from Nature's Best 2012.

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Submitted by Alexandra J. (not verified) on

We all know that beside the harp seal problem there are many bad situations in our world's seas.Have you heard of the over-fished Goliath Grouper in Florida? What about the carribean's coral reef poor conservation? I for one think that as a marine biologist i'd be able to save ALL the world's oceanic problems, but me alone?I think I need help.These poor creatures are being hunted,forgotten,kept in aquariums,predated and hurt by the human race.Please,if you can,stop anyone from doing actions that may somehow hurt these magnificent creatures!

Submitted by The Ocean Portal Team on
PEI stands for Prince Edward Island, where this seal pup was photographed. Thanks for the comments!

Submitted by KMS154 (not verified) on

What is PEI?

Submitted by Bridget (not verified) on

Unfortunately, seals are not protected in Canada and they are bludgeoned and shot to death by sealers/fishermen from Atlantic Canada each year in a government-subsidized commercial seal "hunt". The few pups surviving melting sea ice are slaughtered by sealers for their skins to be stockpiled - stockpiled rather than sold because there are no markets for them. The Canadian government and sealing industry ignore credible science and stubbornly insist seal populations are exploding and are responsible for fish stock depletion.

Submitted by Lynn (not verified) on

This is a serious problem for seals. Not only does it make it harder for them to breed and survive, but it brings them into dangerous contact with humans. The fatal bludgeoning of 50 seals by teenagers in PEI recently is a dire warning of that.