Project co-financed by the EEA Financial Mechanism 2009-2014

Ringed seal


Ringed seal is also called Nerpa. It reaches a size of 125 to 160 cm in length and females are smaller than males. It is the smallest of the Baltic seals reaching 35-110 kg body weight. Their fur coloration is grey-brown with distinctive brighter patterns in the shape of elongated rings. That?s where the species name comes from. Small head with a short snout is mounted on a short neck. They are characterized by large, close-set eyes and a clear mustache with a bead structure. Its occurrence area includes the northern part of the Baltic Sea, Gulf of Bothnia, and mainly Gulf of Finland. This species is rarely seen on the Polish coast.

Ringed seals occur rather individually, they are very cautious and wary, always curious just as harbor seals.

They feed mainly on small fish, as well as on cod, mollusks and crustaceans.

Males reach sexual maturity at the age of seven, and females earlier. The young are born in late February and in early March on ice floats and ice fields. The seal mother prepares a kind of a hole in the snow where a small seal can hide safely from all threats. After birth, the seal is covered with a thick fur. During the three months of breast feeding the young seal takes on the color of adults. During this time, it aims to learn to live independently by watching its mother closely and observing her behavior.

Currently, climate change is the main threat to seals, causing warmer winters, and thus less snow and ice, where this species needs to give birth and rear their young ones.

In the early twentieth century there was about 200 000 ringed seals in the Baltic Sea. The intensive hunting and the pollution of environment as well as mild winters caused a decrease in the seal population. Currently, the size of the nerpa seal population in the Baltic Sea comes to 6-8 000 individuals.

Based on information from the Institute of Marine Station of Oceanography on the University of Gdańsk (IMSOUG) and WWF Poland.

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