Seal oil research languishing?

Steve Bartlett
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Seal oil capsules

A retired Memorial University scientist figures a stigma attached to the seal hunt is the reason the animal's oil is not being used to boost levels of Omega-3 in eggs.

Bud Hulan determined that seal oil fed to chickens raises the amount of the heart healthy oil in eggs, but he thinks farmers availing of the science are using a fatty fish oil, likely from herring or salmon, to achieve the same results.

He's well aware that the use of seal products isn't palatable for some.

"Even in mainland Canada and the United States, they have no time to listen about the harvesting of those cute, little baby seals, and it doesn't make any difference how often we tell them they're not baby seals. ... They don't hear it. They will not hear it," said Hulan, noting he has discussed his research around the world.

His successful effort to raise Omega-3 levels in eggs was described in a recent Telegram series about seal-related projects that received Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency funding from 2001 to 2010.

Hulan's research in the field began decades ago and has involved both seal and fish oils.

He was part of a successful experiment that raised Omega-3 levels in broiler chickens. That work hatched the egg research and the ACOA-funded attempt at incorporating seal oil into the diet of laying hens.

"We were extremely successful in doing so," he said.

Omega-3-enriched chicken and eggs are available in supermarkets today. And while Hulan doesn't think the producers are using seal oil, he says it would be a better choice.

When properly refined, he said, seal oil is of superior quality to fish oils because it doesn't break down or oxidize as fast. It also contains a natural anti-oxidant and has an additional fatty acid that fish oil doesn't.

A source who works with egg farmers across Canada wasn't aware of any producers using seal oil to help produce Omega-3-enriched eggs.

None of the eggs produced in Newfoundland and Labrador are enriched with Omega-3s. The ones available locally come from other parts of Canada.

Hulan, who is also a former provincial fisheries minister, supports the seal hunt for reasons beyond the health benefits of the mammal's oil.

The estimated size of the harp seal herd off Newfoundland and Labrador is 9.2 million animals, and Hulan said the adults eat between 40 and 50 pounds of fish a day.

"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out what the seal population is doing to our fish stocks," he said. Twitter: bartlett_steve


Organizations: Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Geographic location: Canada, United States, Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Fogarty
    November 29, 2011 - 11:02

    Why, of all the stupid ideas in all the world, would chickens EVER eat seals?! This would absolutely never happen if it weren't for a few insane humans. Why would we ever think this is a good idea? Just feed chickens their natural food, don't pump them full of hormones and for god's sake please stop subsidizing the sealing industry with these ludicrous schemes with Canadian taxpayers money when there is absolutely no market for any of the products and there never will be. Take that buyout David mentioned now, sealers, cause you will never see the chance to make money from sealing again. That's the only subsidy to the sealing industry I support. Quit fantasizing about China and Hollywood--sealing industry is dead in the water.

  • Dwayne Cull
    November 26, 2011 - 13:53

    They won't hear of anything related to baby seals but the same people will wolf down 18 day old chickens and figure thats just fine.......??? Oh jeszz I chickens aint' cute......

  • David
    November 26, 2011 - 13:53

    Here's how it will play out: Seal hunt will be abolished at some point, sealers receive some sort of onetime payout from the feds (which, of course, precipitates a multi-year argument and lawsuit about who qualifies for the loot) . Slowly, the medical proporties of seal oil become hugely popular if not mythical, and China (the new economic superpower of the globe) begins manufacturing "sustainable, seal-farm" pills (yeah, sure!) back to us all. Years later, word gets out that the ones buying it in a big way, to preserve the beauty of their smooth skin? That same, outraged Hollywood crowd that loved seals. Full circle, with Newfoundland outside looking in.....(for $12 a ticket, just to rub salt in it!)