اخبار العرب-كندا 24: الأربعاء 22 مارس 2023 09:42 مساءً
A P.E.I. company is adding seal meat to its bait sausages, hoping to capitalize on the abundance of seals in Maritime waters while helping fill the gap left by dwindling numbers of herring and mackerel.
Bait Masters started producing bait sausages in its $1.4-million facility in Nine Mile Creek in April 2021, using a mix of fish, fish oil and other organic matter in a biodegradable casing. Now the recipe is changing.
"Part of that decision came from fishermen who requested it, and part of it came from the abundance of seal, and needing to find a use for… the product," said co-owner Mark Prevost.
"So far, I think seal would probably be one of the higher end as far as quality goes, with oil and fat. I would consider it the Cadillac of all the baits that we've tried to make.
"I think it's the oil, the seal oil as an attraction, and possibly the meat itself. I think it lasts a little bit longer, especially with the warmer waters."
Prevost said the new seal bait sausages, meant to be placed in lobster traps and crab pots, are half seal and half mackerel. The company's site says a sausage will last four to five days in the water, compared to two to three days for traditional bait.
"We like the quality that we're getting, and we like the buy-in we're getting from fishermen," he said.
"This is pretty much the best one we've come across, and we've done hundreds and hundreds of different blends. This one seems to be the most popular already."
Prevost travelled to the Magdalen Islands in February to meet people in the industry, and watch the seals being harvested.
He said he was encouraged to hear fishers based in the Quebec islands were already using seal for bait, with good results.
"I got to see it from start to finish, so I knew what we were buying as far as quality goes," Prevost said.
"We've learned that for crab, it worked well by itself. With lobster, they were mixing it with mackerel. So we've just incorporated what they were already using, and turned it into a bait sausage."
Prevost said he's not worried about pushback from people who don't like the idea of seals being killed.
"I don't worry about that. I know what we're doing is responsible," he said. "I understand there are concerns, but now that I know the industry better than I did before, I'm not too worried about it."
'It makes total sense'
Gil Thériault, director of the Intra Quebec Sealers Association, said he's excited by the idea of bait sausages made with seal.
"I think it makes 100 per cent sense. We know for a fact the immense population of seals has a detrimental effect on many fish species at the moment, because seals eat a lot," Thériault said.
"They're eating a lot so we have less bait. So it makes total sense to use them as bait."
Thériault said using seal for bait also makes economic sense compared to importing bait from elsewhere.
"In the last couple of years, we bought bait from Spain, from Asia. We don't even know how the stocks are doing there," he said.
"We send our Canadian money outside of the country. We fly bait from foreign countries with immense impact on the environment. What we're doing at the moment just doesn't make sense."
UPEI professor emeritus Pierre-Yves Daoust has been hired by Bait Masters to do a risk assessment of the new bait sausages, looking at the sustainability of using seals for bait and any potential risks to the ecosystem.
"Both grey sales and harp seals, they are a very healthy population right now," Daoust said.
"Their numbers have been increasing since the 1970s. Therefore, in terms of conservation, there is no problem."
Daoust said the fact that the seals come from the Atlantic region is also reassuring to him as a scientist.
"That's the ideal situation. We are not bringing seals from waters other than our Canadian waters," he said. "So there is no chance that we are importing foreign pathogens in our water, by introducing seal by-products in their baits."
Prevost said the company has made 2,000 of the new seal-mackerel sausages that have been pre-sold to fishers, and will be asking for feedback during the spring fishery.
"Once we start getting feedback, if we can use more seal and less mackerel, we'll go that route," he said.
"It's very, very high potential — probably the highest we've seen in any other ingredient."
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