An increasingly precarious seal hunt

However, this year a staggering movement of 200,000 seals was observed within a few nautical miles of the archipelago. Unfortunately, the winds dispersed the herd before the hunt began.

the right date

The opening date question is always tricky, given all the weather variables that come into play. These are elements of quite impressive complexity.admits Cédric Arseneau, director of Canada’s Office of Fisheries and Oceans in the Magdalen Islands.

the spokesperson for DFO indicates that these changes in climatic conditions come on top of regulatory elements governing hunting, namely the ban on hunting during birth and the ban on killing seal pups.

For the department, the opening date of the seal hunt, March 17, met the regulation. Cédric Arseneau emphasizes that if the hunters had left too early for an expedition, they would have arrived in a movement where hunting would not be allowed,

Hunters must therefore wait for the calf to molt to authorize hunting, which takes place a little over fifteen days after calving.

A white coat is considered a mutant as soon as it starts to lose its white fur. Baby seals begin their molt at the top of their heads, which is easy to see, comments Mr. Arseneau.

A movement under surveillance

To determine the start of the hunt, Fisheries and Oceans perform missions on the ice to observe movement. MPO, qui se déplace sur le territoire pour relever les éléments de datation, entre autres, le moment où la mise bas a eu lieu, et de là, à partir des données qu’il a déjà colligées dans le passé, on est capable d’estimer le nombre de jours que ça prend avant d’en arriver à un stade qui permet l’abattage. “,”text”:”On a notre biologiste, Mike Hammill, indique le porte-parole du MPO, qui se déplace sur le territoire pour relever les éléments de datation, entre autres, le moment où la mise bas a eu lieu, et de là, à partir des données qu’il a déjà colligées dans le passé, on est capable d’estimer le nombre de jours que ça prend avant d’en arriver à un stade qui permet l’abattage. “}}”>We have our biologist, Mike Hammill, indicates the spokesman for the DFOthat travels through the territory to record the dating elements, among other things, the moment when the birth took place, and from there, from the data that it has already collected in the past, we can estimate the number of days it takes before reaching a stage that allows slaughter.

The DFO also adopted internal rules. Thus, 80% of seals born in the year must have reached maturity before being allowed to hunt.

A herd of seals in the Gulf of São Lourenço (archives).

Photo: Gil Theriault

Cédric Arseneau adds that this rule is quite easy to follow for the harp seal herd, as all females give birth at approximately the same time. Because they are waiting for favorable weather conditions, specifies the person responsible for DFO to the Islands.

The director of Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Magdalen Islands office refutes arguments that the departure date is too late.

It’s even the opposite, he says. In recent years, the opening of hunting has been anticipated.

Arseneau recalls that in the past, people hunted seals for their skin and very little for their meat. What the hunters asked of us, he said, was to coordinate the opening with the maximum value of the skin. We had to wait until the moult was finished.

As of now, the hunting product is mainly processed in the butcher shop and the fat, used to extract omega-3.

Hunters also questioned the end of the white coat hunt. This is clearly not a direction the department seems to want to take at the moment.comments Cedric.

Between regulations and climate change.

In recent years, the formation of ice floes around the Madelinot Archipelago tends to become less and less frequent and increasingly shorter.

A white coat and an adult seal on a piece of ice floating among several other ice floes, with open water behind.

Since 2010, 42% of winters have not allowed the formation of a safe ice cover to ensure that seal pup observation expeditions (archives) can be carried out.

Photo: Rei Ohara/Accents Hotels

Since 2010, 42% of winters have not allowed the formation of a safe ice cover to ensure that seal pup expeditions can be carried out.

This year was no exception. Until the beginning of February there was no ice, says Arseneau. The ice formation this year was very late this year and was short lived.

At this point, the representative of the DFO shares the same observation as hunters about the long-term sustainability of hunting. Will we have enough sea ice for seals to give birth? Unfortunately, I think it’s a bigger and more difficult issue than just the opening date.

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