St. Lawrence species

Grey seal

Halichoerus grypus

Type of resource

  • Marine mammal
  • Seal

Status of the resource

  • Not a cause for concern

In season

Fresh in winter and spring.

SIZE : Up to 2 m and 230 kg for females and 3.3 m and 350 kg for males.

LIFE EXPECTANCY : From 30 to 40 years.

LIFE CYCLE : Sexual maturity is reached around age 3, but grey seals tend to start breeding around the 8th year of life. Generally, reproduction takes place on land. Gestation lasts 8 months. The onset of embryonic growth can be delayed up to 4 months to ensure that the timing of birth is optimal for the pup’s survival.

Females give birth to their pups, weighing between 15 and 17 kg, between early December and mid-February. The pups are called “blanchons” (whitecoats) because of their white fur, and are nursed for 16 to 22 days, after which the females return to the water. Once weaned, the young seal will have almost doubled in size and weigh around 50 kg.

Social pressure on seals

Grey seal colonies are predominantly made up of females. Males use intimidation to create harems of 3 to 10 females, which they will defend fiercely. This behavior puts pressure on the young males. Despite having reached sexual maturity, they often have to wait several years before they can mate.

The grey seal can be recognized by the shape of its straight head with vertical nostrils, which looks like a horse’s head. Its body is long, with small flippers and a relatively short tail.

Its coat is short and waterproof. The male’s coat is dark grey with light grey patches, while the female’s is silver with black patches. Another difference is that the male is much larger than the female, with a few folds under the neck.

It is a year-round resident of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Somewhat gregarious when on land, rather solitary when swimming and hunting. Dives from 60 m to 100 m deep, sometimes as far as 200 m.

Credit : Yves Persoons, photo taken in Gaspésie, in 2021.




Bottom fish

Grey seals can eat from 7.5 to 12.5 kg of food per day.




MACHINES : Hakapik, club, or firearm.


  • Hunting permit mandatory, training required to obtain it
  • Quotas
  • Specified hunting season

Seal hunting is one of the most regulated and sustainable types of hunting.

Fish or meat?

In the old days, the seal was considered to be a fish. Its meat could therefore be eaten during Lent. Even today, in terms of regulations, seals are considered fish by the federal government, since they live in the water, and as meat by MAPAQ, since they are mammals.

BENEFITSSeal meat is a natural “superfood” available in our own backyard: high in protein, low in fat, and highly nutritious.

Particularly rich in iron, zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B12.

Since it is a wild meat, there is no risk of it containing growth hormones or antibiotics.

Seal oil also has its merits, thanks to its Omega-3 content. It helps improve mental, cognitive, and cardiovascular health, as well as boosting the immune system.

LET’S COOKFerrous taste, similar to deer or moose meat, with a hint of iodine that evokes the sea.


  • Preparation
    • Remove the fat, which adds a bitter taste.
    • Salt the meat to remove all the water. Pat dry rather than rinse before cooking.
    • Freeze pieces of meat that are more difficult to cut.
  • Cooking
    • Sear the meat for 1 or 2 minutes on each side, turning only once.
    • Season as you start cooking.
    • Do not over-cook, as it will dry out quickly and lose its tender texture.
  • After cooking
    • Allow the meat to rest before cutting.
  • Seasoning
    • Smoked mushroom powder, seaweed and red wine.