Enthusiasm for the 3rd scientific gray seal hunt on Île Brion

From January 23 to February 28, Madelinot hunters were authorized to kill gray seals on the beach of Île Brion, an ecological reserve in the north of the archipelago. The hunting activity is carried out under the supervision of scientists from the University of Laval, which was authorized by Quebec in 2020.

Researchers are empowered to document the effects of the presence of hunters and the growing size of the gray seal colony on the fauna and flora of Brion Island. The goal is to determine the conditions under which commercial hunting can be permitted while protecting the area’s biodiversity.

Eight crews from the Magdalen Islands have shown interest in going to Brion, compared to two or three in recent years.

Gil Theriault, director of the association of whalers in Quebec, believes that this renewed interest related to the desire to better control the gray seal colony to protect fish stocks.

Hunting on Brion Island is only allowed for 5 weeks, limited to the beach and must be done with the participation of Laval University (archive) researchers.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Elisa Serret

Mr. Thériault even confirms that citizens of Gaspésiens, Nord-Côtiers and Maritime provinces are willing to travel to the archipelago to participate in hunting efforts. He believes that the recent suspension of mackerel and herring fishing has something to do with the situation.

There are young fishermen who call me a bit desperate and say they want to join the seal hunt.Mr. Theriault says. One of them just got a lobster license and tells me that there are seals where he usually fishes and he can’t fish anymore. . He told me that if we don’t do something, he thinks he will go bankrupt!

Fishermen increasingly realize that the herd of gray seals is completely out of control, the ecosystem is in trouble, and the measures taken are not protecting the bay’s biodiversity. all species that seals can eat are disappearing one after another. »

quote from Gil Thériault, director of the Association of Intra-Quebec Suit Hunters
Gil Thériault is director of the Quebec Inland Sealers Association

Gil Thériault is the director of the Intra-Quebec Suhoor Hunters Association (archives).

Photo: Radio-Canada / Isabelle Larose

The association of seal hunters in Quebec estimates that a maximum of 2,400 animals will be hunted on Brion Island this year. Last year, hunters killed 500 animals, and in 2021 this figure was 160 seals.

The total number of gray seals in Canada is estimated at about 425,000 individuals, according to a recent analysis by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

A goal of 3,000 animals for Côte à Côte butchery

Rejean Vigneau, owner of the Côte à cote butcher shop in Cap-aux-Meules and seal hunter, hopes to kill 3,000 young gray seals on Brion Island and Pictou Island, located between Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. meat

bêtes et on n’en a seulement chassé 1300″,”text”:”L’année dernière, on avait aussi un objectif de 3000bêtes et on n’en a seulement chassé 1300″}}”>Last year we also had a target of 3,000 animals and only hunted 1,300 animals.mentions Mr. Vigneau. It took about three weeks to clear the inventory, so going to 3,000 isn’t outlandish. We have a market for that.

Réjean Vigneau butchers seal meat in a blood-soaked workplace.

Réjean Vigneau hopes to preserve 3,000 seal meat through expeditions to Brion Island and Pictou Island in Nova Scotia (archives).

Photo: Radio-Canada / Isabelle Larose

In addition to being the new owner of his own boat, Mr. Vigneau has assigned three other crew to hunt down the butcher’s bill.

Total Ocean refuses to come forward

Radio-Canada sought to find out if Total Océan, a Havre-aux-Maisons company that processes seal blubber into high-quality oil rich in omega-3s, would be interested in acquiring gray seals from the island.Brian.

Co-chair Francois Gaulin declined an interview request from Radio-Canada, explaining that he was in talks with industry players on the matter.

metal equipment

Total Océan’s molecular distiller enables the production of seal oil for pharmaceutical purposes (archives).

Photo: Courtesy of Total Ocean

However, Mr Golin clarified that the company’s current contracts are mainly for the supply of oil from harp seals, not gray seals.

However, Madelinots struggle to hunt this species regularly, as hunting efforts depend on ice conditions near the archipelago. The company could therefore obtain seals hunted in Newfoundland.

A game-changing great white shark?

Butcher and hunter Réjean Vigneau doesn’t plan to go hunting until next week, or even the week after. He estimates that the increase in white sharks around Brion Island could have delayed gray seal calving by at least 15 days.

For the first time this year, Fisheries and Oceans did not conduct an aerial survey of the Gulf of St. Lawrence to monitor spawning conditions before opening the catch.

Instead, the Department analyzed data from previous years to estimate when 50% of young seals would molt, a prerequisite for opening a hunt.

This year we opened the hunt a little blindRejean Vigneau reckons. jours.”,”text”:”De ce qu’on entend à Pictou, les loups-marins viennent juste d’arriver pour mettre bas alors qu’habituellement, ça se fait à la mi ou à la fin décembre. Les citoyens là-bas nous informent et nous envoient des photos. On a aussi les échos des chercheurs puisque des femelles ont des émetteurs. Il y a une femelle qui est arrivée sur l’île Pictou jeudi passé seulement, alors que d’habitude elle aurait mis bas il y a 15jours.”}}”>In Pictou we heard the seals have just arrived to give birth, which is usually done in mid or late December. Citizens there give us information and send us photos. Since women are transmitters, researchers also have echoes. There is a woman who arrived on Pictou Island only last Thursday, when she usually gave birth 15 days ago.

White shark predation may have an effect that we don’t even suspect, it’s unlikelyGil Thériault admits. There’s a lot of information we need to know about what’s going on in the oceans.

Photograph of an underwater great white shark.

Researchers believe they have found a hunting and learning ground for the great white shark around Brion Island (archives).

Photo: iStock

Hunter Réjean Vigneau says that during autumn hunting trips, he noticed that adult gray seals were thinner than usual. It has been argued that females cannot give birth with such a low body fat percentage, and it appears to be the case.

According to Mr Vigneau, the increase in white sharks off the coast of the Magdalen Islands is changing the behavior of gray seals.

In the shelter of the capes around the islands we see seals that we don’t usually seehe explains. We also see many seals maimed and injured by sharks, easily spotted by their teeth marks.

Réjean Vigneau reports that he spotted three great white sharks while hunting around the archipelago this fall. I have never seen in my lifenotes.

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