The North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission


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Ringed Seal

CLydersen Ringed seal equipped in Svalbard

Photo: C. Lydersen

The ringed seal is the smallest of all living seal species, with males reaching a length of 1.5 m and a weight of 95 kg, and females 1.4 m and 80 kg (Bonner 1994). The ringed seal has a north circumpolar distribution. It is the most ice-adapted of seals, and is known to occur throughout the Arctic Ocean, including the north pole (Reeves 1998). The name of the ringed seal refers to the light-coloured rings on the dark grey pelt that are visible on adult animals.

RS Dist cropped for web

 Photo: NAMMCO 2016


The NAMMCO Scientific Committee reviewed the status of the ringed seal in 1996 (NAMMCO 1997) and initiated the compilation of papers and studies reflecting the present knowledge on the species, which formed the first volume in the NAMMCO Scientific Publications series, Ringed seals in the North Atlantic, edited by Mads Peter Heide-Jørgensen and Christian Lydersen. This review takes this monograph as a starting point, reviewing mainly the knowledge which have emanated since, using in particular three recent reviews (Kovacs et al. 2008, Kelly et al. 2010b, Kovacs 2014) and focussing on the work done in the NAMMCO area.


Around 5 million (extrapolated from density of ringed seals in various ice types).


Circumpolar distribution throughout the Arctic, including the North Pole, and Subarctic, also ranging widely into adjacent seas.


and Management

National (and regional) management. Licence required in Canada, Greenland and Russia, but no restriction on season or numbers that can be taken.

Hunting closed in Svalbard during breeding season and quota system for sport hunters off northern Norway.

At present little evidence of depletion, but the species is/will be challenged by the impact of climate change with predicted reduction in distribution range and numbers.

Relation to Humans

Hunted by native peoples for food and leather in Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Russia. Limited sport hunting off northern Norway.


North Atlantic stock areas:
Exploitation and assessment status 

Ringed seal assessment table