Distribution and Habitat
The Weddell seal is circumpolar in the pack ice zone of the Antarctic Ocean. It is the most southerly distributed of all seals, and breeds in the fast ice around Antarctica and on islands north to South Georgia.
Adult males are about 2.5-2.9 m in length; females are slightly longer at 2.6-3.3 m. Both sexes weigh approximately 400-450 kg, with wide seasonal fluctuations. The coat is dark silvery-grey, darker above, mottled with black, gray and whitish blotches. Females reach sexual maturity between 3-6 years, males between 7-8 years. Pups are born from mid-September to early November, depending on latitude. Newborn pups are about 1.2m long, weighing 22-25 kg, and are covered in a grey or light brown woolly lanugo with a line down the back. Pups are nursed for about 6-7 weeks. Weddell seals are not gregarious and remain a discrete distance from each other when hauled out. The diet varies with location, and consists mainly of fishes, cephalopods, and crustaceans.
The world population of Weddell seals has been reported to be over 750,000, but no good population estimate actually exists.
Threats to the Species
There is some concern that the importance of krill in the diets of the fish and squid on which Weddell seals feed, along with current pressures on krill stocks from the commercial fishery, could result in the species experiencing a reduced food supply.
Reijnders, P. et al. 1993. Seals, Fur Seals, Sea Lions, and Walrus. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN Seal Specialist Group. Gland, Switzerland. 87pp.