Seals in the Netherlands

There are two seal species native to the Netherlands: the common seal (Phoca vitulina) and the grey seal (Halichoerus grypus). The common seal usually inhabits the Wadden Sea and the southern side of the Wadden Islands, though they will occasionally travel into rivers and the IJsselmeer. The grey seal is mostly found in the North Sea and on the northern side of the Wadden Islands. Both species can also be encountered regularly along the North Sea coastline in the Netherlands, Belgium and France.

The common seal is, in keeping with its name, the most common seal in the Netherlands. It is therefore an often encountered species in Sealcentre Pieterburen. The common seal is a very well-known species, because it is globally a commonly occurring species.

The grey seal is the largest seal species in the Netherlands and with it, also the largest predator in the Netherlands. The scientific name, Halichoerus grypusmeans as much as ‘hook-nosed pig of the sea’. The name likely stems from the shape of its nostrils, which are remarkably big and round. Grey seals are the only member of the genus Halichoerus, making it fairly unique!

Seals in the Netherlands are mostly found in the Wadden Sea, but they can also occur along the North Sea coastline, like the Zeeland delta. The Wadden Sea is an important resting area and birthplace for seals. The Wadden Sea is also a unique natural habitat, stretching from the Netherlands, along Germany, and up to Denmark.

Seals live in seawater. Sometimes though, they take a little trip upriver to get a taste of fresh water fish. In some cases they go very far inland; there have even been reports of seals in the Utrecht canals and the large rivers! Seals are smart, so most of them will find their way back to the sea, but when a seal was found swimming around in the Veluwe lake, even the Sealcentre staff was flabbergasted. After some observation it became clear that this seal wouldn’t be able to find her way back home by herself. That is how the seal Hulcky ended up in Pieterburen…