Nutrient sources for the harp seal
The diet of a harp seal is anything but routine. Depending on what is available they will eat anything from polar, arctic, and atlantic cod, herring, sculpin, capelin, plaice, Greenland halibut, or redfish; not to mention the crustaceans they feed on such as shrimp, krill, and prawns. Harp seals have relatively long intestines compared to minke whales eating a comparable diet. (To see the advantages of a longer intestine go to the ADAPTATIONS page.) These marine animals routinely dive 100 meters to get their supply of nutrients, and even further if there is a need.
Harp seals as a nutrient source
Inuit people have hunted harp seals for a very long time. (If you would like to learn more about the hunt, go to the INTERACTIONS page.) In the arctic there are not many sources of food for the people, so it is not unusual that they have used the seals as their main source of food. After hunting the seals there were a few ways they could prepare the meat. The first was to cook it and eat it fresh right then, however this was not a practical way to prepare the meat due to the lack of much storage of fuel for cooking. Another way they prepared it was by drying it out. This was very common because the meat could last a long time in this form. They also sometimes froze the meat to save it for later, however the most common way the people ate seal meat was raw.
Harp Seal Meat Nutrition Facts             Harp Seal Meat

 Nutrition Facts of harp seal meat Harp Seal Meat
                                                                  Photo provided by: Kim Hansen

"Seal flipper pie as usually prepared is one of the worst things I have ever put in my mouth. Imagine dog legs frozen in open air, tossed into the bottom of a boat, stored in a freezer for months, cleaned to get rid of residual fat, and baked in a pot pie. I’ve had edible pie exactly once in 25 years, done by a grad student from a freshly-killed animal without freezing. Still tastes fishy. I’ll take a turkey pot pie any day." Dr. Steven M. Carr

The Inuit people also utilized the rest of the harp seal. They used the blubber, skin, and bones to make tools, clothing, tents, boat material, lines for their harpoons and fuel. Below on the left, you can see a photo of a seal intestine being used to make a rain coat. On the right you can see a typical way that these seals were hunted in the past.

   Seal intestine as a rain jacket   Photo provided by Dr. Thomas Volk   My personal interpretation of seal hunts done by Inuit people.

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