Ringed seal

Ringed seal. Photo Credit: Mike Hammill

Photo Credit: Mike Hammill

Size: The smallest species in the seal family, Ringed seals average about 1.5m in length and weigh between 50–70 kg.

Feeding habits: Ringed seals eat a wide variety of small prey including mysids, shrimp, Arctic cod, herring, smelt, whitefish, sculpins, perch, and other small fish or crustaceans.

Reproduction and life cycle: Females give birth to a single pup in March or April. Pups are born in a snow lair where they are protected from the environment and predators. They are weaned after one month.

Lifespan: 25 to 30 years.

Distribution: Ringed seals reside in Arctic waters and are commonly associated with ice floes and pack ice. The ringed seal maintains a breathing hole in the ice allowing it to use ice habitat that other seals cannot. Ringed seals have a circumpolar distribution from approximately 35°N to the North Pole, occurring in all seas of the Arctic Ocean. In the North Pacific, they are found in the southern Bering Sea and range as far south as the Seas of Okhotsk and Japan.

Population trends: Little is known about the population of ringed seals in the northwest Atlantic. However the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission (NAMMCO) estimates that approximately 1.2 million ringed seals would be needed to account for a proportion of the number of seals harvested and killed by polar bears in Baffin Bay.

Conservation status in Canada: The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) designated ringed seals ‘Not at Risk’ in April 1989. The COSEWIC Marine Mammal Subcommittee has recommended that there be a new assessment.