Tens of thousands of seal pups off the coast of Magdalen

According to data recorded Tuesday morning by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the closest part of the movement is 10 nautical miles (18.5 km) north of the island of Havre aux Maisons, outside the airport. The furthest part of the herd is 34 nautical miles (63 km) off the coasts of the archipelago.

Biologist Mike Hammill has been participating in aerial observations of the herd since late February. He visibly estimates that around 200,000 seal pups were born on the ice that borders the Madelinot archipelago, a situation not seen for 10 years.

An aerial photo of the ice floe showing hundreds of seals.

The seal colony extends about 25 nautical miles (46 km) northwest of the island of Le Havre aux Maisons (photo dated March 3, 2022).

Photo: Fishing and Oceans Canada

It was really impressivesays Mike Hammill. 000-200000blanchons.”,”text”:”Il y a beaucoup d’animaux, c’est difficile de donner un chiffre avant d’évaluer les photos, mais on sait déjà qu’il y a une bonne concentration, ça ressemble à l’abondance qu’on a vue il y a une dizaine d’années où on avait recensé 180000-200000blanchons.”}}”>There are many animals, it is difficult to give a number before evaluating the photos, but we already know that there is a good concentration, it looks like the abundance we saw about ten years ago when there were 180,000-200,000 seal pups.

We haven’t seen ice conditions like this in several years. They are really good for calving this year. »

a quote from Mike Hammill, Fisheries and Oceans Biologist from Canada

If we have big storms everything could change but so far it seems to be a good season where the survival rate would be quite highhe adds.

Aerial photo of seals on a block of ice.

According to Mike Hammill, most of the harp seals found in the Magdalen Islands have already given birth (photo dated March 3, 2022).

Photo: Fishing and Oceans Canada

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is conducting an official census of harp seals in the southern Gulf this year. About 25,000 aerial photos will be taken and analyzed to estimate the population as accurately as possible.

It takes a year and a half to complete the entire photo analysissays Hammill. The white coat is white on white ice, it’s hard to spot and it takes time.

The Northwest Atlantic seal population is estimated at 7.4 million individuals, according to the latest figures from Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

This population includes the herd that breeds near the Magdalene Islands, as well as the herds of the northern Gulf and the Terra Nova Front region.

Is a hunting season possible?

The opening date of the seal hunt has not yet been set by Ottawa.

Until then, Madelinot’s hunters hope the winds won’t cause the colony to stray away from the Magdalene Islands.

Co-owner of the Côte à Côte butcher, Réjean Vigneau, wants to be able to hunt around 2,000 Greenland seals to supplement his still insufficient supply of meat after the gray seal hunt.

Mr. Vigneau, however, is cautiously optimistic about the herd’s current location.

It’s always good news to know that seals are nearby, but Mother Nature being what she is, she can play tricks on us.says Réjean Vigneau. If the wind is not favorable, they may drift and we will never see them. This is the sad reality of seal hunting.

Réjean Vigneau cutting seal meat at a bloodstained workstation.

Réjean Vigneau has managed to store the meat of 1,300 gray seals thanks to expeditions to Nova Scotia’s Brion and Pictou and Henry Islands, but needs around 3,000 carcasses to meet the demand for meat.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Isabelle Larose

With global warming, harp seal hunting seasons in the Magdalen Islands can no longer be taken for granted. Last year, herds had to retreat off the Blanc-Sablon coast of the Lower North Shore to give birth, as the perimeter of the Madelinot archipelago was completely ice-free.

Also, the baby seal watching season was canceled in mid-February. At that time, ice conditions did not suggest that the activity could be carried out safely.

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