The harbor seal (or harbour seal) ( Phoca vitulina), also known as the common seal, is a true seal found along temperate and Arctic marine coastlines of the Northern Hemisphere. They are found in coastal waters of the northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, as well as those of the Baltic and North Seas, making them the most widely distributed of the pinnipeds (walruses, eared seals, and true seals).
Common seals are brown, tan, or gray, with distinctive V-shaped nostrils. An adult can attain a length of 1.85 meters (6.1 ft) and a mass of 132 kilograms (290 lb). Females outlive males (30–35 years versus 20–25 years). Common seals stick to familiar resting spots or haulout sites, generally rocky areas (although ice, sand and mud may also be used) where they are protected from adverse weather conditions and predation, near a foraging area. Males may fight over mates underwater and on land. Females are believed to mate with the strongest males and generally bear a single pup, which they care for alone. Pups are able to swim and dive within hours of birth, and they develop quickly on their mothers' fat-rich milk. A fatty tissue layer called blubber is present under their skins and helps to maintain body temperature.
Their global population is 5-6 million, but subspecies in certain habitats are threatened. Seal hunting or sealing, once a common practice, is now illegal in many nations within the animal's range. The California population of subspecies richardsi amounted to approximately 25,000 individuals as of 1984. Pacific common seals or Californian common seals are found along the entire Pacific coast shoreline of the state. They prefer to remain relatively close to shore in subtidal and intertidal zones, and have not been seen beyond the Channel Islands as a pelagic form; moreover, they will often venture into bays and estuaries and even swim up coastal rivers.
There are several different species of whales you are likely to encounter on one of our trips. California Gray Whales, Humpback Whales, Blue Whales, Finback Whales and Orca Whales (Killer Whales) are common sightings in the waters surrounding the Channel Islands. Additional wildlife includes seals, sea lions, dolphins and a rich variety of bird life; some of which are endangered and protected.
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