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Fisheries Officer Jean-Claude Richard checking to make sure the seal’s skull is properly crushed Fisheries Officer Jean-Claude Richard checking to make sure the seal’s skull is properly crushed, indicating brain death, before the hunter proceeds to bleed the animal out.


This year, access to the seals around the Islands was first made available for an inshore hunt, a traditional activity during which a few hundred Magdalen Islanders harvested seals for their meat. Then, on March 23, the competitive hunt opened and some twenty boats headed out to the ice pack, while several squads took part in the hunt on land. In all, the 300 to 350 participants harvested nearly 20,000 seals in a few days.

When the seal hunting permits were issued, DFO fisheries officers met most of the permit holders to inform them of the regulations and conditions in force in 2009. The hunters agreed willingly to participate in these information sessions; they listened attentively and took the opportunity to put their questions to the fisheries officers.

The first analyses of the monitoring done during the hunt indicate that the three-step slaughtering method introduced to ensure a humane hunt was respected by a large majority of the commercial hunters, who worked with the cameras focussed on them. In fact, while a few irregularities were observed by the Conservation and Protection Branch and are currently being investigated, the compliance rate was generally very high.

Despite the presence of groups opposed to the seal hunt, this activity essential to Islands social and economic life took place in an ordered fashion.

Once again this year, researchers from Greece, France and China were present on the Islands to continue the research on seal heart valves they began last year. This highly promising research is expected to lead to clinical trials on humans within two or three years and if conclusive, would be of tremendous economic benefit to the market for products derived from the harp seal.

On the Magdalen Islands, the seal hunt signals the start of the fishing season, and is the first of a number of major fishing activities – the lifeblood of this Gulf of St. Lawrence community – that will take place one after the other over the next few months.

Sylvette Leblanc
Magdalen Islands Area