Looking to try something new? Seal meat is deliciously gamey, rich in iron, and enjoying a resurgence of interest recently. The annual PhoqueFest puts seal in the spotlight, but there are a handful of restaurants in the city where it is typically on the menu year round. Take note: it often shows up on menus under the name loup de mer, or “sea-wolf” in literal terms, rather than the better-known French term phoque.
Some quick clarifications: the service and consumption of seal in these restaurants is very much above board and legal (a few fishmongers around Montreal also sell seal, and this is similarly legitimate). Seal hunting in Atlantic waters is regulated by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, a federal agency, and there are strict limits on the number of seals that may be caught, and the way in which they are hunted. At present, only Grey and Harp seals are allowed to be hunted, and these species are not endangered or vulnerable.
Eating seal continues to be a contentious issue, but it is something with notable historical precedent: non-Indigenous settlers in isolated places like Quebec’s Magdalen Islands have relied heavily on seals for sustenance and survival in the past. Most importantly, seal hunts have been integral to Inuit culture and survival, as documented in films like the documentary Angry Inuk. This has led some prominent figures such as Inuit singer Tanya Tagaq have pushed back against criticism. Tagaq noted that Indigenous Canadians (particularly Inuit) have a long history of hunting seals for meat, fur, fat, and other products, and that seal hunting is a far more sustainable practice than industrial-scale fishing or slaughter of livestock.Read More