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Harp seal sightings confound biologists

March 22, 2011
clipped from www.boston.com
Harp seals from Canada are showing up in US waters in greater numbers and farther south than usual, and biologists want to know why.
This year, we’ve had four sightings of adult harp seals in North Carolina, which we’ve never had before. We typically don’t see them that far south

Seals are common in New England waters, where the most abundant type is the harbor seal, with a population estimated at about 100,000 the last time they were surveyed a decade ago. Gray seals are the second most common seal.

Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans says 9 million of them can be found off Canada and Greenland.

A decade ago, harp seal sightings off Maine were rare, said Lynda Doughty, marine mammal stranding coordinator for the state Department of Marine Resources. The numbers have picked up the past few years, and this year there have been 40 documented sightings — more than double the number spotted last year.

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