A Vancouver chef is making the unusual move of offering Newfoundland seal on his menu, saying he wants to introduce urban West Coasters to "a truly Canadian delicacy."

Edible Canada's Eric Pateman chose the controversial meat as an entree in his restaurant's prix fixe Dine Out Vancouver menu, which highlights Canadian cuisine from coast to coast for the country's 150th birthday.

"It's one of the most sustainable seafoods in the country. It's unique. It's different," said Pateman.

Eric Pateman seal cuts

Edible Canada president and executive chef Eric Pateman considers seal cuts as he plans the restaurant's menu for Dine Out Vancouver. (Edible Canada.)

"[Seal] certainly comes with its controversy, but I think it's an important part of Canada's food history and Canada's food story and I think it's a discussion worth having."

After experimenting with seal tourtière, seal tacos and even grilled seal hearts at private tastings, Pateman decided on Newfoundland seal pappardelle, spiced with cinnamon and cloves.

Chefs in St. John's and Montreal have famously featured seal before, but Pateman thinks he may be the first in B.C. and knows there will be critics.

"In all honesty ... I'm scared out of my mind," said the executive chef and president of Edible Canada.

Seal hunt 2005

A sealer drags two dead harp seals back to his boat during the Canadian seal hunt on the ice floes in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 2005. That year, more than 300,000 harp seals were harvested. In 2015, the number dropped to 35,000. (Paul Darrow/Reuters)

Controversial hunt

Canada's seal hunt has been the subject of protest for decades, with animal rights groups and celebrities like Paul McCartney and Pamela Anderson calling for an end to the "inherently inhumane" killing of young seals.

It's staunchly defended by politicians in Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as the federal government who call it a "sustainable use of a renewable resource" with economic and cultural importance to remote communities.

Though the industry and government say the harvest is "humane," with a three-step process in place to reduce pain and suffering in young seals, opponents of the hunt disagree.

"The killing methods prescribed by the Canadian government do not equate to humane slaughter," said Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of Humane Society International Canada, who has observed the seal hunt for 18 years.

Aldworth said the working conditions at sea — with sealers on moving boats and seals on moving ice floes — make it impossible to kill quickly in all cases and she's seen young seals suffering.

"If people in Vancouver who visit this restaurant choose not to buy seal products, they are helping to save the lives of defenseless baby seals that are targeted by this horrible industry."

Young harp seal nova scotia

A young harp seal rests on the ice off the coast of Cape Breton island, Nova Scotia, March 31, 2008. (Paul Darrow/Reuters)

Most harp seals are hunted for fur and most are young — between about one and three months old. However, it is illegal to hunt 'whitecoats,' the pups so young their fur is still white.

The vast majority of the seals hunted in Canada are harp seals, which are abundant, according to DFO, and number an estimated 7.4 million.

In 2015, 35,000 harp seals were harvested — down from 355,000 in 2006 and much less than the 400,000 sealers are allowed to take. Sealers can use rifles, shotguns, clubs and hakapiks.

McCartney Seal Hunt 20150414

Paul McCartney and his wife Heather pose with a seal pup on ice floes in the Gulf of St.Lawrence in 2006, as McCartney called for an end to Canada's commercial seal hunt. 'Whitecoats,' or very young pups, are illegal to hunt. (Tom Hanson/Canadian Press)

Like tuna crossed with moose

Despite this backdrop, Pateman said he's not trying to "push the envelope" by adding seal to his menu. He plans to observe the Newfoundland seal hunt himself this spring.

He considers harp seal sustainable, because the animals are abundant and the existing hunt — focusing on fur — often doesn't make use of the meat.

"We're just literally looking at an ingredient that has historically been a primary source of food on the East Coast and in the Arctic for years, and we're just trying to bring it to common people's tables."

Seal sushi

Edible Canada has also experimented with seal aburi sushi, before deciding on the pappardelle for its menu. (Edible Canada)

The seal meat, cooled at sea and flash frozen on shore, arrives next week in advance of Dine Out; it has a very short shelf life lasting only a few days in the fridge, said Pateman.

He compares the taste to "ahi tuna crossed with a moose," combining slight fishiness with the dark, richness of moosemeat.

"We wanted to do something in a Bolognaise … that highlights the seal but also makes it understandable and approachable for the average consumer to try."

Harp Seal pup grey

A young harp seal rests on the ice off the coast of Cape Breton island, Nova Scotia, March 31, 2008. (Paul Darrow/Reuters)