The gray seal hunt in the town of Matane, Quebec is a part of the regional culture, but residents remain uneasy.
As hunters with rifles descend upon the small town that lies on the south shore of the of St. Lawrence near the mouth of the Matane River, residents wonder if it’s too close to the homes.
The area is part of the Gaspésie Peninsula located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and with it comes a regional community of hunters that are allowed six seals each by permit only.
With the gray seal population in the region exploding in the last 40-years from 10,000 to over a half-million animals, a responsible hunt is called for, but with shoreline shooting allowed the inevitable concern arises.
Matane resident Bobby Gauthier said in a translated statement: “In the fall, there was a lot of snow geese and Canada geese and no hunters who come because we are near homes. It’s a bit the question I ask myself. Do they respect the distance allowed for the use of the rifle?”
Seal hunting is permitted in the area from November 15 to December 15 on the south shore, but far into February on the north side of the gulf.
The head of Fisheries and Oceans said that while the hunt is growing in popularity only 10 seals were harvested in 2014 due to the fact that there are but few hunters that ply the trade.
Hunters must attend and pass a mandatory training course from Fisheries and Oceans Canada to obtain licensing and the proper permits which enforce the safe use of firearms.
Training only lasts a few hours and is free, although last year very few people registered for the class.
It is generally not permitted to fire within 300 meters, or almost 1,000 feet, of a residence although hunters in the region are well versed in the rules of safety.
Some hunters will even knock on doors to warn a resident before they shoot at a seal with a high-powered rifle.
Photos via ICI Radio Canada