Ringed seals have never been the subject of large-scale commercial hunting at the levels of harp or hooded seals because of their dispersed distribution and inaccessibility to hunters. In terms of subsistence harvests, it is estimated that several tens of thousands of ringed seals are taken annually by Inuit and other peoples of the Arctic Basin (e.g. Kovacs 2014).
Seal hunting is a vital component of everyday life and culture in Greenland and provides a significant amount of nutrition and income to families living in remote coastal communities (Greenland Home Rule 2009). Ringed seal catches in Greenland have also varied greatly, as has the reliability of the catch reporting system (Teilmann and Kapel 1998). Ringed seal catches appear to have varied in response to changing environmental conditions, particularly temperature and ice cover. Catches may have been as high as 100,000 annually in the 1970s, and as low as 30,000 in the 1950s. Recent catches have been between 60,000 and 90,000. Catches in 2013 were a bit lower, likely due to the EU Sealskin trade ban. The data takes some time to be validated, and therefore this table is updated as validated numbers become available.
The ringed seal hunt takes from some tens to a few hundred individuals annually in Svalbard, depending in part on how many trappers are occupying stations in the archipelago. The numbers of ringed seals taken within Norwegian waters annually are quite low (a few hundred animals total).
Catch records are available only for the commercial portion of the western Russian catch of ringed seals. The proportion of the total catch represented by the commercial catch has probably varied in response to market factors (Belikov and Boltunov 1998). Commercial catches have been as high as 12,000 annually during some parts of the 20th century, but recent catches have been only a few hundred. However it must be emphasised that this does not represent the true catch of ringed seals, since a large proportion is presumably kept for domestic consumption.
Ringed seals are primarily hunted throughout the Canadian Arctic for subsistence use, however, formal monitoring or reporting is lacking, and harvest studies have been only done on a regional basis (e.g., Reeves et al. 1998). Ringed seal catches in Canada have varied considerably throughout the 20th century, in response to market fluctuations and changes in settlement pattern and hunting technology (Reeves et al. 1998). Up to 48,000 ringed seal skins were traded commercially in the 1970s, whereas more recent trade figures have been in the low 1000's. However total catch in recent years is thought to have been in the neighbourhood of 60,000 to 80,000 annually (Reeves et al. 1998).
Ringed seal catches in Alaska have varied and generally decreased throughout the 20th century. Ringed seals have been an important subsistence resource for many Alaska Native communities along the coasts of the northern Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort Seas for centuries. However, harvest levels have decreased since the 1970s, likely due to changes in the Natives’ lifestyle as well as the enactment of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (1972), which prohibits commercial harvesting of marine mammals in U.S. waters (Frost 1985). As of August 2000, an estimated 9,500 ringed seals were harvested for subsistence use in Alaska per year. Currently there is no comprehensive effort to quantify harvest levels of seals in Alaska (Allen and Angliss 2010).