The U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) of 1972 made it illegal to hunt or harass any marine mammal, including seals, in U.S. waters.
The MMPA does allow for certain exceptions: native subsistence hunting; collecting or temporarily restraining marine mammals for research, education, and public display; and taking restricted numbers of marine mammals incidentally in the course of fishing operations.
The primary objective of the MMPA is to maintain the health and stability of the marine ecosystem and to obtain and maintain an optimum sustainable population of marine mammals.
According to the MMPA, all seals and sea lions in U.S. waters are under the jurisdiction of the National Marine Fisheries Service.
IUCN/The World Conservation Union
IUCN/The World Conservation Union is a worldwide conservation organization. This organization links together government agencies, non-government agencies, and independent states to encourage a worldwide approach to conservation.
IUCN lists one subspecies of harbor seal (P. v. mellonae) as "data deficient" (there is not enough information to assess the risk of extinction).
Marine Zoological Parks
Having harbor seals at marine zoological parks provides the opportunity for the public to learn about these animals and how human activities may impact their survival.
In the protected environment of a marine zoological park, scientists can examine aspects of harbor seal biology that are difficult or impossible to study in the wild. Data gathered from these animals are valuable in the fight to conserve endangered species of pinnipeds.
SeaWorld San Diego rescues, rehabilitates, and releases harbor seals each year that strand along Southern California beaches. About 85% of the rescued animals are injured, orphaned, or ill pinnipeds - especially California sea lions, harbor seals, and elephant seals. Many of the rescued animals are weaned pups or yearlings that were dehydrated and emaciated due to an inability to find enough food. These animals are given fluids and any necessary medical care. Usually after a couple months of steady food and care, they are healthy and ready for release back into their natural environment. Newborn pups are also rescued, and it is often necessary for them to be hand-raised by the animal care staff in a two- to three-month long process beginning with tube-feeding a special high-fat formula, teaching the pups to bottle feed, and then weaning the pups onto fish.
If you see a marine mammal that you think might be in need of help, it is very important not to approach or try to return the animal to the water. Instead, notify the local marine mammal rescue facility, a lifeguard, or a park ranger and provide the location, type, approximate size and condition of the animal