Top Left: Harbor seal female nursing a pup. Photo by Judy Bourke.
Top Right: Harbor seal colony. Photo by Jessica Weinberg.
Bottom: Harbor seal in the water. NOAA photo.

Harbor seals (Phoca vitulina richardii) are one of six pinniped species found in the San Francisco Bay Area. Unlike elephant seals, harbor seals are present year-round. Their population provides valuable insights into the condition of marine and coastal ecosystems. Boasting an estimated 7,000 individuals, the harbor seal population in Point Reyes National Seashore is the largest concentration in the State of California. However, their abundance and distribution can be affected by disease, changes in food supply, disturbance to haul-out sites by commercial and recreational use, and environmental changes such as rising sea levels.

Harbor seals have been monitored at Point Reyes National Seashore and Golden Gate Recreation Area for 30 years, often with the help of dedicated volunteers. Currently, the Inventory & Monitoring Program conducts surveys once to twice per week throughout the breeding and molting seasons to gather data on numbers of adults and pups, dead pups, red-colored seals, and fresh shark-bitten seals, as well as sources of disturbance. This data has been summarized in the two-page resource briefs, multimedia, reports and other materials available through the menus on the top right of this page.