Video by the Musée de la mémoire vivante
Informants: Josée Malenfant and Simon Beaulieu, eel fishers
Date: January 23, 2017
Location: Rivière-Ouelle (Québec)
How this odd contraption works
Josée Malenfant and Simon Beaulieu are sitting on a couch in their living room. They take turns explaining how a weir functions.
[Simon Beaulieu] Basically, a weir is a fence that stops eels from continuing down a waterway – a fence that’s shaped a bit like a “V” or a hook so that eels will gather next to it at high tide.
Colour photograph of a modern-day eel weir with vertical nets forming a kind of wall that floats with the tide.
The eels follow the net. At the end of the hook, there’s an eel trap.
Colour photograph that gradually becomes a close-up view of the ansillon, or first funnel, and the bourrole, or second funnel, and the collecting box to which the funnels lead.
The eels enter the weir, follow the nets and then swim into the eel trap. They can’t get out.
[Interviewer] The eel trap. In fact, there are nets that guide the fish, but there are two parts called . . .?
[Josée Malenfant] The ansillon and the bourrole.
[S.B.] They create a funnel-shaped passageway that leads the eels to the collecting box.
Colour photograph of the entrance to the ansillon, or first funnel
At the same time, they create an aspirating current. They create a current that makes the eels enter the collecting box. And then they can’t [get out], since the end of the passageway is very small, since it is blocked by. . . We install a sleeve.
Colour photograph of the inside of a collecting box, showing the fabric sleeve attached to the entrance.
It’s a piece of fabric that flutters in the water. The eels enter it but can’t find their way out.
[J.M.] It hangs down, which means there’s no way out. When the eels fall in, they can’t swim back up. Basically, they can only . . . they can only fall into the collecting box after the tide.
[S.B.] The mouth of the bourrole and the mouth of the ansillon are in the middle.
The camera moves back to Josée Malenfant and Simon Beaulieu sitting on a couch in their living room.
Since eels are also bottom fish, they swim to the bottom once they’ve fallen into the collecting box. They’re not very likely to find their way out.