Harp Seal, Prince Edward Island National Park, Canada

Harp seals are protected in the United States by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Although they are not considered endangered, as sea ice melting earlier and earlier each year, available harp seal breeding grounds are being lost in the North Atlantic and Arctic. 

“Every March, up to 200,000 harp seal pups are born on sea ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In 2011, storms and lack of ice-cover due to a warmer winter climate resulted in hundreds of seal pups being washed up on the shore of Prince Edward Island. Like many, this young seal faced an uncertain future. Nearly three weeks old, it was weaned but not yet ready to swim on its own, leaving it vulnerable to predation or drowning. For me, this image expresses the vulnerability of not only this individual, but the entire harp seal population.” -- Nature's Best Photographer, John Sylvester

See more winning photo's from Nature's Best 2012.