St. Lawrence species

Harp seal

Pagophilus groenlandicus

Type of resource

  • Marine mammal
  • Seal

Status of the resource

  • Not a cause for concern

In season

Fresh in winter and spring.

SIZE : 1.6 km for 130 kg to 150 kg.

LIFE EXPECTANCY : From 25 to 40 years.

LIFE CYCLE : Sexual maturity is reached at around 5 years.

The females give birth to a calf weighing approximately 11 kg somewhere between February and March. The young, called pups, are breast-fed and gain 2.2 kg per day. After 10 to 12 days of nursing, they are weaned. As they molt, they lose their white coat and become a mottled gray-white. As adults, they will be gray-white with a black spot on their back.

The harp seal has gray-white fur with a black patch on its back. Its hair, which points backwards, enables it to cling to the ice floe (like cross-country ski skins). It has a small head, which is black in adults; and large, bulging eyes. Its sensitive whiskers enable it to hunt in the darkness of the deep waters. Its short front legs help it to navigate, while its hind legs help to propel itself. Its powerful claws enable it to grip and climb onto the ice.

Offshore, near the coast, on ice floes. Dives to depths of 400 m.

Seasonal resident of the St. Lawrence in fall and winter, returns to the Arctic and Greenland waters in spring.

Credit : Jean-Christophe Lemay, photo taken in Rimouski, in 2018.








MACHINES : Hakapik, club or firearm.


  • Hunting permits mandatory, training required to obtain them.
  • Quotas
  • Specified hunting season

Seal hunting is one of the most controlled and sustainable methods 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* (Quebec Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food), since they are mammals.

BENEFITS : Seal 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.