A first crew of hunters, accompanied by researchers from Laval University, set sail Thursday morning to go to the small isolated island located north of the archipelago.
In October 2020, Quebec authorized a gray seal hunt on a limited section of Île Brion beach, in the presence of scientists only and for a defined period.
Researchers document the impacts of the gray seal hunt on the ecological integrity of Brion Island, but also the effects of the growing size of the island’s gray seal colony on the fauna and flora, including certain species are threatened or vulnerable.
The data collected will be used to determine under what conditions sustainable winter hunting could be permitted.
Three hunting expeditions are authorized this year on Brion Island, between January 22 and February 28.
Everything is going well so far, that is to say that we still have good weather windows with not too much wind, which allowed the first crew to leave for Brion, explains the director of the Intra-Quebec Seal Hunters Association, Gil Thériault.
Mr. Thériault adds that a second crew could also go hunting in Brion in the coming days.
Denis Éloquin’s crew is currently hunting in Pictou, Nova Scotia, but when they return, they will either return to land their products on the Islands and return to Brion, or they will stop directly in Brion on their way back, explains Gil Thériault.
Last year, 160 young gray seals were killed on Brion Island during a single hunting trip carried out without the use of an all-terrain vehicle.
This year, hunters hope to increase this number and could therefore use motorized vehicles to transport the seals to the beach.
The Ministry of the Environment and the Fight against Climate Change authorizes the use ofMTB on the beach, but prohibits it within one meter of the vegetation.
Although the capacity of the three boats authorized to go to Brion Island could allow the transport of approximately 2,800 carcasses, the Association of Intra-Quebec Seal Hunters realistically envisages a harvest of approximately 800 animals.
For several years, the Madelinots have been demanding a change in the status of the ecological reserve in order to have the right to hunt on the beach, in particular to control the seal population, in order to protect fish stocks.
A single adult gray seal% of this diet”,”text”:”can eat up to two tons of prey per year and cod can make up to 50% of this diet”}}’>can eat up to two tonnes of prey per year and cod can account for up to 50% of this diet reports Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
On the east coast of Canada, the number of gray seals has increased from 7,300 individuals in 1960 to nearly 425,000 in 2017 according to Ottawa.
A molecular distiller that makes recovery hopes a reality
Beyond meat and skins, Madelinot seal hunters will soon have access to a new outlet for processing seal carcasses, directly in the archipelago.
The Madelinan company Total Océan, which wants to produce seal oil rich in omega-3, finally received its molecular distiller before Christmas.
The centerpiece of the Havre-aux-Maisons plant had been awaited for two years.
For us, this is a complete game-changer, we no longer have to do business with any external company for oil purification, we will be able to do everything internally., explains the co-president of Total Ocean, François Gaulin.
” We become neither more nor less a hub. Pretty much everything that happens in the east of the country should normally go through us. »
As the installation of the distiller has not yet been completed, the start of full-scale production is hoped for only in April.
Total Ocean intends to produce between 100,000 and 200,000 liters of oil in 2022, which requires a supply of 3,000 to 6,000 seals.
We’re going to take everything we can from the Islands, but for the rest, we’re going to get supplies from Newfoundland., specifies Mr. Gaulin. He mentions that 2022
will not be a normal year due to the installation and running-in of new equipment at a time when the winter hunting season is in full swing in the Magdalen Islands.
For the sealing industry as a whole, the large-scale production of Total Ocean is a major turning point, enthuses Gil Thériault.
” Within 2 to 3 years, we are aiming for substantial landings of 20,000 to 30,000 seals in the Magdalen Islands. »
We have several projects, not only in terms of oil, but also in terms of meat, skin, adds the president of the Association, Yoanis Menge.
There is also a 100% eco-responsible tannery project that we are working on.