My family comes from Notre-Dame-de-Pierreville, a small municipality located on the shores of Lac Saint Pierre. I was the eldest of a family of six and my mother, Odette, would ship me off to my grandparents’ farm whenever a new sibling was born. I still have fond memories of the farm except for the picking of strawberries under the hot sun while under attack by horse flies.
The farm was sold more than fifty years ago but, every year, I make a point of visiting the area. While there, I always visit the local commercial fishermen to buy smoked sturgeon and yellow perch fillets. In 2012, the fishermen advised me that the government had placed a moratorium on yellow perch fishing in Lake Saint Pierre. The yellow perch population had greatly reduced and overfishing seemed to be the culprit.
A few years later, in 2015, I read that poachers had been caught fishing yellow perch in the Lake of Two Mountains. What! The yellow perch thrives near Montréal and they are disappearing 100 kilometres further down the St. Lawrence! That, to me, is a mystery. The article reporting on the poachers informed us that individuals from the Sorel-Tracy area were the buyers of those illicit fillets. I can only imagine the surprise of the Sorel population when they found out that the yellow perch found in their famous gibelotte, a fish soup, came from Montréal. What a scandal!
More recently in May 2019, the Journal de Montréal, always looking for sensational news, published an article in which a researcher working for Environment and Climate Change Canada, claimed that the health of the yellow perch varies depending on where it lives in the St. Lawrence and I quote: “The yellow perch population … is healthy in the Montréal area but its health deteriorates as we get closer to Lac Saint Pierre.” That seems to me to be nonsense for obvious reasons.
This was published in 2019, the moratorium on commercial fishing was declared in 2012 and that’s all they have discovered. The article goes on to explain that many contaminants have been found in the fish and that the stress related to these contaminants is more prevalent in the yellow perch living in Lac Saint-Pierre as opposed to the ones living in lac Saint-Louis and lac Saint-François. To use a common expression this appears to be a red herring meant to hide the truth.
I keep wondering why these scientists, for all these years, have kept silent about the real reason why the yellow perch were disappearing. Recent studies show that the drop in yellow perch numbers in Lac Saint-Pierre has nothing to do with pollution, nothing to do with overfishing and more to do with the disappearance of their spawning grounds to the profit of more arable land for agriculture. This phenomenon is not new; it began in the fifties. Only today are measures undertaken to create new spawning grounds for the yellow perch on the shores of the lake. The idea that it took more than fifty years to react only shows that agriculture is a sacred cow difficult to blame for its actions.