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NW Atlantic harbour seal population assessment and Potential Biological Removal levels

Regional Peer Review - National Capital Region

October 16-20, 2023

Halifax, NS

Co-Chairs: Sean MacConnachie and Véronique Lesage


The designatable unit (DU) of P vitulina vitulina consists of the harbour seals found on the Canadian Atlantic and Arctic coasts. This DU ranges into the waters of southern and western Greenland, the northeastern United States, and Saint-Pierre and Miquelon (France). It is very likely that this unit is comprised of groups of harbour seals with high site fidelity distributed over a large area, and has within it significant geographic substructure. The total population has not been estimated for this DU, and analyses have not been undertaken to determine whether there is significant subpopulation structure. This subspecies was considered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) in April 1999 and placed in the Data Deficient category. The status was then re-examined in November 2007 and assessed as Not at Risk.

DFO undertook the first ever aerial survey to cover the entire range of Atlantic harbour seals in Canadian waters over a three-year period (2019-2021). This review will generate the first abundance estimate for this population in Atlantic Canadian waters.

Information generated from this review will also support the Department in meeting requirements for an updated harbour seal population assessment for Atlantic Canadian waters if required under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) import provisions.


To provide an estimate of the current abundance and distribution of harbour seals in Atlantic Canadian waters;

To provide global and regional (if appropriate) Potential Biological Removal (PBR) estimates for Atlantic harbour seals in Canadian waters.

Expected Publications

Expected Participation



Participation to CSAS peer review meetings is by invitation only.

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