The bearded seal has been hunted by man for thousands of years, as a source of food and for its durable skin which is used in boats, lines and clothing (4). While commercial harvests of this species, which probably depleted certain populations, have ceased, subsistence hunting continues in Canada, the United States, Greenland and Russia (1). However, the numbers of seals taken in these subsistence harvests are not clear (1).
Oil spills can affect bearded seal populations, either through direct contact or by reducing the availability of prey, and human-created noise could be negatively impacting the bearded seal during the breeding season when males are vocal (1). In addition, the bearded seal may be affected by pollutants found in the ocean; pesticides, such as DDT, and heavy metals have been found to be present in the tissues of bearded seals (4).
However, the greatest threat to this species may come from global climate change. As the bearded seal is dependent on sea ice for breeding, it is likely to be adversely affected by the predicted reduction in sea ice coverage as a result of global warming (1).