Utne Blogs > Environment

Friends of the Feathered Harvest Eiderdown

 by Lisa Gulya


Tags: environment, green living, eider, eiderdown, Canadian Geographic,

Eider ducksIt’s possible to buy a down-filled comforter or parka without suffering guilt pangs about over-plucked birds. Down harvested from the nests of the common eider, reports Canadian Geographic, helps protect the formerly over-hunted ducks. The Canadian nonprofit Société Duvetnor Ltée, headed by retired biologist Jean Bedard, funds itself by selling eiderdown hand collected from 12,000 nests on the Île aux Lièvres, one of the islands it owns in Quebec’s St. Lawrence Estuary. “The down can be collected without damaging the ducks or their eggs and nests,” according to Hinterlands Who’s Who, a wildlife information site sponsored by the Canadian Wildlife Service and the Canadian Wildlife Federation. Société Duvetnor Ltée and another nonprofit, Société protectrice des eiders de l'estuaire, reinvest their net annual revenues of $50,000-$100,000 into protecting nesting grounds, reports the Quebec Management Plan for the Common Eider

In addition to generating revenue for preservation, Canadian eiderdown harvesters aid the scientific study of the eider. “Eiderdown harvesting activity in the estuary has made it possible to accumulate a series of unique scientific data that would otherwise have been obtained only at considerable expense,” write the authors of the Quebec Management Plan. “Eiderdown collectors should therefore be considered as partners in the protection and management of the eider rather than as commercial operators.” (The authors of the Management Plan include Société Duvetnor members.)

For duck lovers who can’t afford (or who ethically oppose) a $9,000 comforter, Société Duvetnor allows ecotourism on two of its islands. And don’t worry about disturbing the natives. To coexist with the myriad birds populating the islands, Société Duvetnor prohibits visitors from hiking in certain areas until the birds finish nesting in early July.