The harp seal is the most abundant pinniped species in the Northern Hemisphere. Globally this species numbers close to 8 million animals. Pup production at all breeding sites combined is at least 1.4 million pups per year currently (Stenson et al. 2003, Potelov et al. 2003, Haug et al. 2006). The Northwest Atlantic stock of harp seal is estimated to number 5.9 million animals (DFO 2005). This latest estimate for Canadian waters is significantly higher than the previous estimate produced in 2000, when the Gulf and Front herds combined were estimated to number 5.5 million. This is a marked recovery from an estimated low of around 1.8 million in the early 1970s (Sergeant 1976). Catch levels have been increased repeatedly for this population during the last decade and likely now exceed potential biological removal levels by 1.5 – 5.9 times. Given this level of removal the population is likely to now be in decline (Johnston et al. 2000). The breeding group in the West Ice near Jan Mayen was estimated at 296,000 in 1994; this population increased to approximately 348 000 by 2003. The White Sea breeding group was estimated to be 1.8 million animals when last surveyed in 2000 (Potelov et al. 2003).
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