Seal Research and Conservation
Conserve Wildlife Foundation staff have been working with the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey to develop a conservation plan for seals in New Jersey.
Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ works with the New Jersey Endangered and Nongame Species Program to identify and protect wintering colonies and haul-out areas used by seals along New Jersey’s coastline. Haul-out areas (where seals come onto land) are important to seals as they offer a place to rest and escape from marine predators. In addition to identifying and protecting haul-out areas, Conserve Wildlife Foundation staff have been working with the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey to develop a conservation plan for seals.
New Jersey has the largest seal haul-out site on the US Atlantic coast south of eastern Long Island, NY and is home to four species of seal which may be observed foraging offshore or hauled-out on beaches and marsh primarily between the months of November through April. The most common seal species present in New Jersey is the harbor seal (Phoca vitulina), but gray seals (Halichoerus grypus), harp seals (Pagophilus groenlandica), and hooded seals (Cystophora cristata) also visit in smaller numbers during the winter. While none of the seal species found here are classified as endangered or threatened, they are all protected under the Federal Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) of 1972.
Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ staff have been monitoring seals at the state’s largest haul-out sites in order to document baseline abundance, habitat use, and disturbance. In New Jersey, the greatest threat to haul-out sites and the seals that use them is disturbance from humans. Seals are exceptionally sensitive to disturbances while they are hauled-out on land. Motor boats, kayakers, unleashed dogs, and overhead aircraft can send a whole colony back to the relative safety of the water. Any observations of seals should be done at a minimum distance of 50 yards. Outreach and education regarding the habitat needs of seals and safe viewing distances is a major component in minimizing disturbance.
To report violations of the MMPA or seal harassment, contact NMFS Enforcement 1-800-853-1964.
- Species Spotlight - Pinnipeds in New Jersey
- Report a sighting of a marine mammal in NJ
- Seal Watching Guidelines
- Marine Wildlife Viewing Guidelines
- NOAA Fisheries, Office of Protected Resources
- Stockton College NJ Seal Study
- Marine Mammal Stranding Center
Michael J. Davenport, Marine Species & GIS Programs Manager: Email
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