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First record of the grey seal from Greenland Published 03.11.2009

The grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) was photographed during fieldwork in September 2009 near Cape Farewell at the south tip of Greenland. This is the first documented record from Greenland of this species, resembling the hooded seal. The grey seal has a longer head with a convex profile. The skin coloration is highly variable ranging from gray to brown being more or less spotted. Unlike the hooded seal, grey seal often give birth to the young on land.

Grey seal differs from al other seals in Greenland by giving birth to their young late autumn or early winter. At this time of the year hunters are not reaching the most remote islands in South East Greenland. ‘It is possible, that grey seals have been breeding here for many years’ says Aqqalu Rosing-Asvid, Greenland Institute of Natural Resources. ‘Other scenarios are that grey seals at Cape Farwell are straying individuals from Iceland or Labrador, or they could be newcomers establishing a population in Greenland.’

Grey seal is distributed throughout most of the North Atlantic south of the Arctic where they can concentrate in large colonies numbering several thousand individuals. But in regions with relatively few grey seals (like in Denmark) they haul out with common seals. The grey seals observed in South Greenland were discovered in a colony of common seals.

The grey seal with a juvenile in Wales. Photo: Fernando Ugarte.