The harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) population in the Kattegat-Skagerrak area has been dwindling for several centuries due to excessive hunting pressure. Corrected hunting statistics during 1890–1976 are used to estimate changes in population size over the past century. After protection was introduced in the 1960s and 1970s the harbor seal population in the area increased at an exponential rate of 0.12 and exceeded 5,000 animals in 1986. The present rate of population growth is used for modelling the influence of fertility and age-specific mortality. It is found that the observed high rate of increase is only realistic if female fertility rate is very high, the range of juvenile mortality rate is 0.33–0.52 and adult mortality is less than 0.15. Commonly cited higher mortality rates are not realistic in the Kattegat-Skagerrak area.