Known for their distinctive fur patern of white ribbon bands on a black background, one encircling the neck each front flipper and torso, decorating their body’s like white chains. The back drop of the male seals is darker than the females. The young are no less stylish possessing a blue-grey back with light sides Is revealed after shedding the fluffy white lanugo (popular with all young seals) four weeks after birth, acquiring their chains four years later. These seals are true fashion icons of the seal world.

 

Trend-setting seals knows no geographical restrictions

The ribbon seal lives primarily in the North Pacific Ocean, but is found is found in southern parts of the Arctic ocean.

In Alaska they are found in Bristol bay, western Beaufort seas, the Bering sea where they are found from march to May most abundantly in in the central and western Bering sea, where they give birth to their pups upon the sea ice. Though little is known where they go after this it is though some migrate north through the Bering strait in to the Chukchi sea.

Ribbon seal (Phoca fasciata) “running” along sea ice

They hang out in only the coolest places

Ribbon seals use sea ice to rest, give birth and moult. Usually found on the lose ice on the

frontal (this is the area north of the zone where open water meets pack ice) and rarely along the coast or on fast ice Unlike most seals which move across the ice using both flippers to pull them self’s forward. The ribbon seal moves by moving one for flipper at a time at a time, enabling them to move as fast across the ice as a man can run!!!! As they spend so much time on the ice they are very sensitive to any thing in the environment that affects the timing and extent of sea ice formation and breakup.

Only Michelin star will do!!

Diving to depths of 200m Ribbon seal diet consist of cephalopods and crustaceans for juveniles before moving up the trophic levels for benthic fish species such as walleye Pollock pacific cod.

Ever wondered when trendsetter reproduce

Ribbon seals have one pup April to May upon ice flows – born covered in a thick white coat of lanugo (dense white fur). The pup is fed on its mother rich fat milk for 4 weeks in which time it doubles in size. Once weaned they will stay on the ice flows for a few more weeks at which point they lose a large amount of their weight and the lanugo is moulted replaced with the blue grey fur of an adolescent seal. at which point they can dive and hunt for them self’s. During their second year their distinctive adult ribbons appear. Females reach sexual maturity at 2-5 years with males reaching sexual maturity at 3-6 years of age , with a life expectancy of 20-25 years.

Ribbon seal pup covered in lanugo

How many do we have to keep up with

Do the ribbon seals living far from land, however using aerial surveys over the Bering and Okhotsk seas surveys were conducted (never solely for ribbon seals however, and the methods varied). The most recent study has estimated to be 184,000 in 2012-2013 with a previous study estimating a range wide abundance of 267000 ribbon seals in 2007.However , these numbers are up for debate as in 1981 there was an estimate of population of 9000-100,000 in the Bering sea and 140,000 in the Okhotsk sea. In 1987 there was an estimate of 120,000-140,000 in the Bering sea and between 200,000 and 630,000 in the Okhotsk sea. Due to the difficulty to  these animals an actual population number is impossible to know with any certainty currently.

What could knock them of their pedestal

Russia commercially hunted ribbon seals from the 1930’s to the 1990’s. in the 1950’s the commercial fishing became an annual harvest averaging 11,000 from the 1950’s to 1969 and 5,000-6,000 from 1969-1992. how ever this ended in 1991 in the Bering sea and 1994 in the Okhotsk sea,

Since then however there have been only minimal impacts on ribbon seal populations. with only predators such as orcas, Greenland sharks and polar bears preying on them. bycatch being the biggest human impact. with Alaska fisher reporting catching nine per year from 1990-2007 in 1991 there was a report of 14 per year in fisheries around japan and in a six-year period between 1993 and 1999 of shore salmon gill net fisheries in the Russian far east 154 individuals per year were killed. in effect making very little difference to the overall estimated population.

Ribbon seals however are particularly susceptible to changes in climate warming and reduction in the seasonal sea ice which as previously stated they use for reproduction, pupping and resting. as they spend so much of their time on sea ice in particular not fast ice, future increases in temperature could have catastrophic effect on ribbon seal populations

fisheries target known ribbon seal prey species such as walleye Pollock pacific cod pacific and herring. However, biomass for all of these species are fairly high and stable. Having little to no affect on ribbon seal populations however if these were to collapse there could be huge problems for the ribbon seal populations.

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