Species Profile

Harbour Seal Lacs des Loups Marins subspecies

Scientific Name: Phoca vitulina mellonae
Other/Previous Names: Harbour Seal (Lac des Loups Marins landlocked population)
Taxonomy Group: Mammals
Range: Quebec
Last COSEWIC Assessment: November 2007
Last COSEWIC Designation: Endangered
SARA Status: Schedule 3, Special Concern - (SARA Schedule 1 provisions do not apply)

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Image of Harbour Seal Lacs des Loups Marins subspecies

Harbour Seal Lacs des Loups Marins subspecies Photo 1



The Harbour Seal Lac des Loups Marins subspecies is a small, dark subspecies of the Harbour Seal. The curvature of its lower jaw is enlarged. Generally, the subspecies is identified not by its appearance, but by where it lives. The Lacs des Loups Marins seals reside in freshwater year round, which only one other population of Harbour Seals does (the other occurs in British Columbia). The result is that the species is geographically isolated from oceanic Harbour Seals.


Distribution and Population

The subspecies occurs in Lacs des Loups Marins (Upper and Lower Seal Lakes), an area situated 160 km east of Hudson Bay on the Ungava peninsula of northern Quebec. The seals have also been reported in surrounding lakes and rivers, but four individuals surveyed in the fall of 1995 remained within the immediate vicinity of Lower Seals Lake throughout the entire survey period. The population has been comprised of 100 to 600 animals since 1957. The most recent estimate is 100 animals. It is believed that the Lacs des Loups Marins population was established between 3000 and 8000 years ago, during a time of marine submergence.



The seals feed exclusively in freshwater, consuming mostly fish. They rely on strong currents to free some areas of ice. They also depend on ice fissures and on air pockets partly created by the shoreline's complex geometry.



Pupping occurs from mid-April to mid-May. This time period is substantially in advance of other Harbour Seals occuring at a similar latitude. Pupping likely occurs in under-ice shelters. The subspecies probably winters in the larger bodies of water (Lac des Loups Marins, Lac Bourdel and Petit Lac des Loups Marins). It may disperse to outlying smaller bodies of water when the ice melts.



Some populations of Harbour Seals have been extirpated or drastically reduced by human activity. Hunting is one cause. Entanglement in fishing gear is another.



Federal Protection

Species that have been designated at risk by COSEWIC since the Species at Risk Act (SARA) was written must be added to Schedule 1 through a regulatory amendment. Information on this procedure is available in the Assessment section. If Harbour Seal Lacs des Loups Marins subspecies is added to Schedule 1, it will benefit from the protections afforded by SARA. More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Marine mammal regulations pursuant to the 1867 Fisheries Act could provide the species with legal protection.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.



PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

7 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

COSEWIC Assessments

  • COSEWIC Assessment - Harbour Seal, Atlantic and Eastern Arctic subspecies and Lacs des Loups Marins subspecies (2008)

    Harbour seal - Atlantic and Eastern Arctic subspecies Species considered in April 1999 and placed in the Data Deficient category. Re-examined in November 2007 and designated Not at Risk. Last assessment based on an update status report. Harbour seal - Lacs des Loups Marins subspecies Designated Special Concern in April 1996. Status re-examined and designated Endangered in November 2007. Last assessment based on an update status report.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Harbour Seal Lacs des Loups Marins subspecies (2008)

    This land-locked subspecies is endemic to Québec and may number as few as 100 individuals. It inhabits a small series of lakes in northern Québec and is the only subspecies to live entirely in fresh water. The population has declined due to hunting and may still be declining.  Proposed hydro-electric development would cause pervasive changes to the habitat.


  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Act (2016)

    His Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, acknowledges receipt, on the making of this Order, of the assessments done pursuant to subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) with respect to the species set out in the annexed schedule.
  • Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (2016)

    The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has prepared listing advice for the 15 aquatic species received by the GIC. This advice serves as the basis for the Minister of the Environment’s listing recommendations to the GIC. Thirteen of the fifteen species are addressed in the proposed Order Amending Schedule 1 of SARA.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2007 - 2008 (2008)

    2008 Annual Report to the The Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation Workbook on the addition of the harbour seal (Lacs des Loups Marins subspecies) to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk (2008)

    This workbook provides background information on government requirements for adding a species to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk, and on the nature and application of SARA provisions. This general information is outlined in Part 1. Part 2 describes the current status of the harbour seal of the Lacs des Loups Marins, based on assessments provided by the COSEWIC. Part 3 (detachable) consists of a questionnaire to be filled out and returned. It is intended to assist you in articulating your concerns and advice. Click here for the Cree version of the document in PDF Click here for the Ìnuktitut version of the document in PDF