Seals have been used by the Eskimo and other northern hunting peoples for food, oil, and hides. Commercial sealing has been largely confined to a few species, most notably the fur seal. Commercially important species of true seals are the harp seal, whose pups are valued for their fluffy white coats, and the ringed seal. The hunting of these seals is regulated by international treaties, and they are not in danger of extinction. The elephant seals were formerly hunted for oil and almost exterminated, but they are now protected and are stabilized or increasing in numbers. The monk seals have been greatly depleted by hunting in past centuries and their survival is threatened, although they are no longer of commercial importance. The Caribbean monk seal is believed by some authorities to be extinct. The ribbon seal and Ross seal are not much hunted; estimates of their populations have varied considerably, but they are not thought to be endangered.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.