Harp seals are found in the Arctic and northern Atlantic Oceans. Their range extends east from around Baffin Island and Hudson Bay to Cape Chelyuskin in northern Russia. Pagophilus groenlandicus is native to Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Svalbard ,Jan Mayen, and the United States. Stray harp seals have been found in Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Finland, France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Of the pinnipeds (Odobenus rosmarus, Phocidae, Otariidae and Otariidae) in the northern hemisphere, harp seals are the most abundant. ("Harp Seals", 2004; "Pagophilus groenlandicus", 2008; Kovacs, 2008; MarineBio.org, 2009; Schliemann, 1990)
There are three main populations of harp seals, each of which has its own migratory route. The northwest Atlantic population, which breeds and molts in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Labrador, and Newfoundland, travels to Hudson Bay, off the coast of Baffin Island, northwestern Greenland and northern Labrador to feed in early summer. The group that breeds in Jan Mayen spends its summers between Svalbard and Greenland. The population which breeds in the White Sea travels north to the Cara and Barents Seas for the summer. In September, all three of the groups begin to travel south again toward their breeding grounds. They will arrive in their respective breeding grounds in January or February. Some of the juvenile and non-breeding harp seals may remain in the northern feeding areas year round. ("Harp Seals", 2004; "Pagophilus groenlandicus", 2008; Kovacs, 2008; MarineBio.org, 2009; Novak, 1999; Schliemann, 1990)
- Novak, R. 1999. Pagophilus groenlandicus. Pp. 887-888 in Walker’s Mammals of the World, Vol. Volume II, Sixth Edition. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.