Seal species

Seal species

In the waters around Greenland there are large populations of seals divided on a number of different species. In Greenlandic seals are referred to dependent on their age and size but also their state such as swimming or resting.

The ringed seal and the harp seal constitute more than 95% of the skins that Great Greenland A/S trade in while the other seal species only amount to small numbers.

In Greenland the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources is the Greenland Home Rule Centre of Natural Science, providing scientific data regarding sustainable utilisation of living resources in Greenland. Please refer to for an overview of the species including population status and development.

Harp seal

Latin Phoca Groenlandica
Greenlandic Aataavaraq / Allattooq
Danish Grønlandssæl
English Harp seal / Beaters
Pattern Silvery grey w/dark spots
Application Suitable for garments, hats, collars etc.
Avg. size 7 sq.ft.
Length 85-150 cm
Weight Ca. 40-100 kg


The harp seal is the numerically most important seal species. The population is estimated to be about 6 million individuals.

The harp seal lives in icy waters with dense pack ice and areas with floating ice in the north Atlantic Ocean. It gives birth to its offspring on whelping grounds in the White Sea in Nothern Russia, in the Greenland Sea around Jan Mayen and by Newfoundland. Whelping takes place in February or March.

After shedding harp seals disperse out over the northern Atlanctic Ocean. During the summer and fall they arrive in large numbers along the Greenlandic west coast. Late fall they start their return passage to their breeding sites. However, some young animals winter in the waters of the Arctic.

The young harp seal has blue and black spots. As the seal matures the spots on grow together and form the shape similar to a harp, a saddle bag or a pair of trousers. In fur industry the old harp seals are referred to as saddlers.

Ringed seal

Latin Phoca hispida
Greenlandic Natseq / Natsit
Danish Ringsæl / Netside
English Ringed seal
Pattern Silvery with dark circles
Application Garments, hats, collars etc
Avg. size 12 – 14 sq.ft.
Length 65 – 150 cm
Weight 30 – 100 kg


The ringed seal is the most important seal for the Inuit, since it is the only seal that stays during the winter, and gives birth to its young in the area surrounding Greenland.

It is the most common seal in the arctic area, as it primarily resides in icy waters.

The ringed seal has adapted to the rough climate, as it can keep its breathing holes in the ice open, even through thick winter ice.

The seal is named after the characteristic patterns on its fur.

In the fur industry, the fur of the ringed seal is divided into short, and longhaired fur.

The population of the ringed seal is estimated to be approximately 1,2 million seals.

Hooded seals whelp in March or April in the Greenland Sea around Jan Mayen, in the middle of the Davis Strait and by New Foundland – quite similar to the pattern of the harp seal. The baby seal is protected and defended by both its parents until it 14 days old and capable of going into the water.

After whelping the hooded seals set off for their shedding sites on pack ice of which two areas are well-known: one north of Jan Mayen and one in the Denmark Stait.

The adult male has a windbag on its head which can be inflated for defensive purposes. The windbag can be up to 20 cm in diameter.

In Greenland the hooded seal is primarily known from its shedding sites around Nanortalik. The population in the North Atlantic is estimated to around 600.000 individuals.