GLOUCESTER POINT, VA., AUG. 1 -- A harbor seal hopped on a Virginia-based fishing vessel off the coast of Massachusetts, apparently to escape sharks, and spent a week with the ship's crew.

Now that the ship, the Cinmar, has returned to port in Hampton, Va., the seal probably will get a trip back to northern waters, an official of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science said today.

Hank Humphreys, assistant to the institute director, said the institute picked up the seal this afternoon and is holding it in a 22-foot-by-15-foot tank until it receives instructions from the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Humphreys said the crew of the Cinmar said the seal jumped up on the ship's trawls while the vessel was fishing off the coast of Massachusetts. When the crew brought in the nets, the seal came aboard and stayed until the ship returned to port.

"It appears to be fine," Humphreys said of the 2 1/2-foot-long harbor seal estimated to be 2 years old.

Humphreys said the animal had been tagged by the Nova Scotia Marine Aquarium.

"We suspect they'll tell us to have it transported for release in northern waters," Humphreys said.