Fri. Feb 23rd, 2024

Commercial gray seal hunt resumes on Brion

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Total population gray seals in Canada is estimated at nearly 425,000 individuals, according to the latest analysis from Fisheries and Oceans Canada. (Archive photo)

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A long-standing request from Madelinot hunters is finally coming to fruition : the commercial gray seal hunt was able to begin on Saturday on Brion Island after Quebec authorized it last December.

We expect to hunt 3,000 to 4,000 seals, said Gil Thériault, director of the Association of Intra-Québec Seal Hunters, in an interview with < em>Téléjournal Est-du-Québec. The animals will be processed at the Côte à Côte Boucherie, the only one in the archipelago.

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Gil Thériault, director of the Association of Intra-Québec Seal Hunters (Photo by archives)

The hunting windows are slim: the weather has to be good for several days, and we have to have good conditions, which is not always easy at this time of year, he explains. .

For this Madelinot, the return of this hunt is a coherent response to the upheavals that have afflicted the Gulf of St. Lawrence for several years.

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There is a conjuncture of events with climate change, warming and acidification of waters, oxygen in the water which is increasingly lacking. There are several factors which mean that fish stocks are not doing very well and we know that seal predation accounts for a lot.

A quote from Gil Thériault, director of the Association of Intra-Québec Seal Hunters

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Certain sectors of the fisheries are currently plunged into uncertainty, in particular due to the fall in catches of northern shrimp and turbot.

The total population of gray seals in Canada are estimated at nearly 425,000 individuals, according to the latest analysis from Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

This activity will therefore make it possible to respond to an ecosystem problem, according to Mr. Thériault. If we look at what is happening with fisheries, it has never been so fragile, he recalls.

Since 2021, the hunters could only kill seals on the banks of the Brion Island ecological reserve in the context of a scientific hunt supervised by researchers from Laval University.

These hunts made it possible to collect convincing data on the impact of hunting on this island.

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The gray seal colony on Brion Island, an ecological reserve 16 kilometers north of Grosse-Île, in the Magdalen Islands (archives).

We knew that in January, when everything is frozen, the impact of hunters on the ecosystem of Brion Island would be minimal, if not non-existent, and the few data collected during those years proved us right, explains Gil Thériault.

Even if the enthusiasm is strong in the Magdalen Islands, opposition to this hunt remains strong among certain activists, according to Gil Thériault.

We had found an absolutely perfect solution for using seals as bait for shellfish fishing. This is the only fishing we have left and we no longer have bait because we no longer have any other fish. And then we were told by the Canadian government that the Americans would not like it if we used it, he relates, citing the effects of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, an American law.

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The European Union has banned the trade in seal products since 2009, to the great dismay of Canadian hunters, who denounce this regulation.

What we deplore is that despite this damage to the ecosystem, this pressure continues. It continues to have impacts […] on the coastal communities of eastern Canada, concludes Mr. Thériault.

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