A company in Gaspé that specializes in the harvesting and processing of wild algae laments the fact that the rules governing the harvesting of algae are not suitable for the working conditions of the collectors and the situation in the resources of St.
Antoine Nicolas defies wind, ice and tides by diving year-round to harvest marine algae from the Gaspésie for more than 10 years. In 2011, when the entrepreneur and diver founded the company An Ocean of Flavors, he did not expect to face challenges.
disputes over harvesting permit conditions year after year, nothing changes.
Antoine Nicolas is the owner of the company An ocean of flavors, founded in 2011.
In September 2021, near the port of L’Anse-à-Valleau, in Gaspé, one of its employees received a ticket for violating the conditions of his permit. He accidentally tore the base of the seaweed, also called a holdfast, while collecting webbed seaweed.
On the permit to harvest marine plants, arising from Fisheries Actit is said that harvesters must harvest seaweed by hand with a sharp object to avoid tearing the seaweed stem from the seabed.
After disputing the violation statement in court, Antoine Nicolas was cleared thanks to the biologist Éric Tamigneaux, also a professor at the School of Fisheries and Aquaculture in Quebec.
He stated in a report that Radio-Canada was able to consult that
the obligation to cut the algae above the holdfast and leave the holdfast intact on the substrate is, at the moment, not justified by the knowledge of the mechanisms of species change. The grip of the species is not sufficiently attached to the substrate, so these fronds are easily removed and natural..
It is unrealistic to think of harvesting under commercial conditions in Gaspésie without a certain percentage of holdfasts being cut and mixed with the fronds collected by the harvester.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) thus reduced the payment, but still continued to apply this condition, which made the work difficult in the eyes of Antoine Nicolas.
I cannot work in this context. I have the sword of Damocles hanging over my head. I can’t spend more time looking at the beach to see if a fisheries officer is coming to check on me than harvesting the resource in a sustainable and intelligent way.he was sorry.
According to him, accidental uprooting cannot be avoided.
For brown algae, the accidental removal rate is close to 1%. For red, 80%. (…) We tried not to destroy it, but we couldn’t.
The edible algae of St. Lawrence is divided into three species, according to their color: brown, red or green.
Harvesting wild marine algae, he recalled, was sometimes done in extreme underwater conditions, with apnea.
Regulatory changes are requested
Mr. Nicolas believes that the development of the algae industry in the province will require greater tolerance of accidental plucking.
The senior regional agent for resource management in the DFO regional office in Quebec, Mathieu Pellerin, maintains that fisheries officials, who are called to control fishermen, can be adjusted if there is a violation.
It’s really on a case by case basis. But it is the role of estate agents to enforce these conditions.he advised.
Summer and winter alike, Antoine Nicolas dons his diving gear to collect algae from the bottom of the sea.
It depends on the agents to check added the biologist responsible for algae within the DFO, Rénald Belley.
I thought it was like driving on the road in a 90 (km/h) zone. If we drive at 91 (km/h), we won’t get a ticket. But if we ride higher, there is a chance to get it.
Lack of scientific data
The last official study that evaluated the state of biomass, ie the amount of algae in Gaspésie, dates from the 1970s, shows the DFO.
The scientific information available on the biomass of algae in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is still limited. In the criteria we consider for issuing permits, we use a management method that is very careful in terms of the amount of harvest allowed. explained DFO regional agent Mathieu Pellerin.
However, the question asked by Antoine Nicolas and other speakers is on what basis has DFO set the margin of error regarding grubbing at 0%?, points out the researcher of the Institute for Research in Contemporary Economics (IREC), François L’Italien. IREC, together with the Mange ton Saint-Laurent collective, has been dealing with this in recent months.
IREC regrets the lack of scientific data that can be used to develop a regulatory framework tailored to the resource situation.
We can talk about the precautionary principle, but the precautionary principle also applies to other species that do not just prohibit a specific practice. argued Mr. L’Italien.
François L’Italien is a researcher at the Institute for Research in Contemporary Economy.
For us, it is enough for us to examine this question in more depth and then turn it into a real research project and, above all, actions to prevent a company like ours from being limited in number of regulatory changes. of algae.
According to the seaweed industry, harvesting is still not considered commercial fishing, which would explain the current regulations.
In other words, we need to exploit the algae enough to clarify the structure. However, the framework is not clear, and the development of the sector is difficult. (…) This is not normal for something with such great potential as algae researcher request.
According to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, there are over 200 species of algae in Quebec.
If there are no studies, it is better, according to the ministry, to remain cautious. The biologist responsible for analyzing the DFO’s permits, Rénald Belley, recalls that kelp forests play an important role in maintaining biodiversity.
Whether we are talking about fish or invertebrates, all living things in water are connected in one way or another. It plays an important rolehe pointed out.
However, according to the businessman, the precautionary principle is already used in algae harvesters. They must, according to the rules in force, leave one moss out of four on the site to ensure the renewal of the resource. Seaweed harvesters must also wait one year out of three before returning to collect in the same area.
I request that we allow a margin of error in the draw or a simple draw. I want the DFO to prove to me that someone has put their foot in the water to establish regulations like that in Quebec.storm diver Antoine Nicolas.
If I cut the branch I’m sitting on, I’ll destroy the business. I have no interest in clearcutting.
Antoine Nicolas is also a professional diver.
There is still work to be done Rénald Belley admitted.
Especially to better understand biomass, but that, it’s a big project. We still have 240 different types of algae in St. Lawrence. (…) The study area is very large the biologist is nuanced.
In 2022, 29 marine plant harvest permits were issued, including 11 for commercial or personal use. The other 18 are given for scientific or educational purposes. Only one harvest permit is issued per zone and must be renewed annually. The place held by the permit holder is not guaranteed for the following year. The harvesting sector, the target species and the quantity demanded are analyzed before issuing a permit to harvest marine plants.
For his part, Mathieu Pellerin assured that the ministry is open to reviewing its regulations.
We don’t want to slow that down either. he said.
From federal to provincial jurisdiction
Quebec’s algae industry is slow to take off, although it is generating interest among culinary enthusiasts. But Canada’s demand for seaweed is increasing annually by 9%, according to the Pacific Seaweed Growers Association. Seaweed farming represents more than one million direct jobs worldwide, according to World Bank statistics.
To promote the development of the province’s algae sector, IREC proposed that the Quebec Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPAQ) take over this matter. According to researcher François L’Italien, there is legal uncertainty surrounding algae in any case.
Algae is located in the water column, but its base is attached to the sea floor. What can be found in the waters of St. Lawrence is under federal jurisdiction, while the ocean floor is under provincial jurisdiction.
The question is: is there enough interest from Quebec and MAPAQ? he asked himself.
The researcher believes that the new MPO minister, Diane Lebouthillier, MP for the riding of Gaspésie–Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine, will help improve the situation.
We have always said that succession, business transfer, development of new value-added sectors and sustainable local products are important. Well, it’s time for the boots to walk the talk argued François L’Italien.
Minister Diane Lebouthilier’s office declined our interview request, but confirmed that the file is currently under review.