Meet the seal seller keeping Good Friday traditions alive in Newfoundland

The seal hunt is not what it used to be, and neither is the habit of eating flippers on Good Friday, but at least one retailer in Newfoundland is doing his part to keep the custom alive.

Reg Taylor of Taylor's Fish, Fruit and Vegetable Market will be selling seal by the seashore this week.

"We were very lucky. The truck got back late last night," Taylor told The St. John's Morning Show on Wednesday. "Picked up a load of flippers and carcass, and they'll be on the waterfront."

Bruce Tilley/CBC

Eating seal for Good Friday is a longstanding tradition in the province, stemming from the Catholic practice of not eating meat on the religious holiday.

Many consider seal to be fish, even though it's a mammal, and thus it's mostly considered OK to eat for Good Friday.

"We really try to have something for Good Friday because a lot of people look at seal as 'out of the water,'" Taylor said.

But the supply always depends on the seal hunt, and how it kicks off in the unpredictable spring weather.

The hunt officially started last Tuesday, but poor conditions prevented boats from getting in the water until Wednesday or Thursday. Taylor said a windstorm on Monday resulted in most of his suppliers turning back and heading for shore, where they stumbled across swaths of seals.

"As the boats come back to port on account of this big wind here Monday, that's when we started hearing that we were going to have some flippers and carcass here for Good Friday."

Been selling seal for decades

Taylor will be set up on the waterfront in downtown St. John's, as well as at his shop in the Conception Bay South community of Foxtrap.

Supply won't be huge, but neither is the demand these days.

"It'll go down because the older generation is passing on and they were the seal eaters," Taylor said.

Taylor's Fresh Fish, Fruit and Vegetable Market/Facebook

He remembers being a 10-year-old boy, more than 50 years ago, and going from door to door selling seal when the ships came in from the hunt. People would run outside to fill their bread pans with flippers, he said, desperate for some fresh meat after the winter season.

"When my mom cooked seal years ago, I could smell it half a mile away. It was the way it was cooked, the fat on it, the smell of the fat being parboiled, it turned me," he chuckled.

Now seal is a lot fresher, he said, and can be cooked just like any steak or roast.

Taylor's truck will be open on Thursday and Friday, while the store in Foxtrap will close for Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

"Should be lots for the next few days, anyways. Come on and get it."

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