Canada's commercial seal "hunt" is the largest mass slaughter of marine mammals in the world. This year, Canada will allow 270,000 harp seals to be killed.
Canada's 2006 quota for killing seals: 325,000 for the regular commercial "hunt" and an additional 10,000 harp seal allowance for new aboriginal initiatives, personal use, and Arctic hunts. As usual, the commercial quota was exceeded, resulting in over 330,000 seals being kiilled.
During the previous three years, the government of Canada delivered the death sentence to over one million baby harp seals.
Sea Shepherd continues to oppose this annual obscenity called a "hunt." It is not a hunt because the sealers simply walk up to the seals (who have no means of escaping or hiding) and bash the seals on the head or shoot them.
Sea Shepherd, known for direct action, has and continues to use other methods to fight to bring the "hunt" to a permanent end. In 2005, Sea Shepherd joined many other organizations in promoting the international boycott of Canadian seafood products as a means to strip the commercial seal "hunt" of all economic value and force it, by financial means, to end. The Boycott of Canadian Seafood targets the very people who slaughter the seals: It isthe fishing industry that runs the seal "hunt" which is a make-work project for off-season fisherman.
Sea Shepherd believes the following about the Canadian seal slaughter:
The slaughter of seals is incredibly cruel (a post mortem survey has shown that 42% of these babies are skinned alive)
It is a threat to the survival of the species
It is a threat to the survival of cod
It is a slaughter done mainly for unessential, vanity, and luxury items, and therefore, is unnecessary
It is unethical to slaughter newborn seal pups (About 95% of the seals to be slaughtered are babies less than four weeks old)
In 2005, the Sea Shepherd flagship Farley Mowat sailed to the ice floes of Eastern Canada and had a successful campaign although we did not stop the seal slaughter. What we did do was to elevate international public and media awareness of the slaughter. The Canadian government was forced on the defensive.
Eleven of our crew were arrested for filming seal killers without permission from the government. These arrests will give us the opportunity to challenge these censorship regulations as violations of the Canadian Constitution and the Charter of Rights.
Despite the regulations and despite attempts by the Canadian government to prevent us from entering the ice floes, we did break our way into the floes and we were able to block and annoy the sealers. We were there as the eyes and ears of the world community to document the lies continuously spewed forth by the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
The Canadian government states that the seals are killed humanely. Our documentation has proven otherwise.
The Canadian government states that they do not subsidize the "hunt." Our documentation has exposed this lie - time and again, we witnessed the Canadian Coast Guard ships breaking ice and leading sealing ships through the floes to get to the seal nurseries. [see Parade of Fools for more information]. Also, during bad weather, the Coast Guard were extremely busy rescuing sealers whose ships became locked in the ice.
We documented the Canadian Coast Guard ship running down and crushing seals in the ice. We documented hostile sealers viciously attacking our crew on the ice.
The Canadian government spent hundreds of thousands trying to make sure we did not take any pictures of seals being killed. Their Coast Guard vessel, Amundsen, kept close watch on us - sometimes, dangerously close.
Last year marked the first time in history that an anti-sealing vessel has gone to the Labrador Front to challenge the sealers. We were also the only organization in the world opposing the slaughter in the field off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. All previous campaigns have been in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, although Sea Shepherd had come close in 1983 when we blockaded the harbor at St. John's, Newfoundland, to prevent the sealing fleet from leaving. That action resulted in the only time the quota was not exceeded. In fact, there were 76,000 seals directly saved by that action.
In the spring of 2005, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the seals had the support of the Sea Shepherd ship Farley Mowat in the ice and crews from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) who flew by helicopter to the ice when weather permitted.
The advantage the ship gave to Sea Shepherd was the ability to stay with the sealers in the ice despite the weather.
Another phase of our seal defense campaign - the Seal of Approval Campaign - is in full swing. The boycott of Canadian seafood is being promoted by Sea Shepherd and many other organizations and has two parts:
We are asking individuals around the world to refrain from buying Canadian seafood from restaurants or grocery stores until the slaughter of harp seals is ended.
We are recruiting restaurants, hotels, and food distributors to agree to not sell or serve Canadian seafood until the slaughter of harp seals is ended.
We need to expose what the Canadian government would like to keep hidden. We need to once again show the world the horror of the blood-drenched ice floes and the pitiful suffering of the young seal pups as they die. We need to keep the slaughter on the front pages in order to keep it from disappearing out-of-sight and, therefore, out-of-mind.
Please stand with us on the ice floes off Eastern Canada and hold up the banner for life, for the defenseless baby harp seals and their mothers.
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has had a long and successful history with defending and protecting small cetaceans. Unlike whales, small cetaceans (e.g., dolphins, pilot whales, belugas, and orcas) do not have an international body like the International Whaling Commission to regulate the killing. There are simply no regulations or the regulations are ignored. Sea Shepherd has intervened over the years to disrupt these killings, to initiate worldwide protests, and to keep media and public pressure on those responsible through articles, films, and interventions.
There are many problems facing dolphins around the world, such as:
Fishing methods that kill (purse seine, driftnets, gillnets, by-catch, etc)
Entanglement in fishing gear
Marine pollution (pesticides, heavy metals, plastics, industrial and agricultural pollutants)
Low frequency sonar
Sea Shepherd has employed our unique brand of direct action against the killing of dolphins in the Faeroe Islands and Japan.
In 2003, Sea Shepherd kicked the doors open in Taiji,
exposing the gruesome slaughter of dolphins . . .
Every year since 2010, our volunteer Cove Guardians
have been on the front lines at the Cove throughout the hunt season . . .
Now, the movie, The Cove, has won an Oscar,
keeping this issue in the international spotlight . . .
For millions of years, the most incredible of all the world’s fishes has swum our oceans. The bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) is the fastest fish in the sea, one of the largest fish in the ocean, and a marvel of creation – unique in that is a warm-blooded animal.. This allows them to inhabit areas of the ocean that are very cold.
Bluefin tuna (BFT) are one of the top predators of the seas – they eat just about anything and travel great distances, swimming up to 55 miles per hour, to find their prey. Through tagging programs they have been found feeding from the surface down to 3,000 feet. Very few people have ever seen them while diving or snorkeling, as they typically inhabit deep waters.
BFT live up to 30 years (!) and reach maturity at 8 years.
…It is being fished out of existence
Unfortunately, it is the favored fish of sushi restaurants worldwide, especially in Japan, and that is the reason that this magnificent creature is now on the fast track to biological extinction.
One fish sold for US$173,000 recently. With that kind of financial incentive, it is impossible to expect common sense to reign. Governments have proven to be incapable of putting a stop to this carnage due to the deep pockets of the fishing industry, and corruption is rampant.
…It has been abandoned by protection agencies
On March 18th, at the general assembly of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), governments rejected trade bans for bluefin tuna.
The decision occurred after Japan, Canada, and many poor nations opposed the measure.
Stocks of bluefin tuna have fallen by at least 85% since the industrial fishing era began. Bluefin quotas are set at a ludicrously high 13,500 tons by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), but realistically over 60,000 tons are killed every year. The scientific community believes bluefin tuna is at a high risk of fisheries and stock collapse in the Mediterranean Sea in less than 5 years. The quota is too high, it is not enforced, and there is insufficient political willpower to act – the same old story.
ICCAT is the governing body that sets limits on the amount and location of tuna to be caught. This commission is as effective in regulating the killing of tuna as the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) was in overseeing the overfishing of Cod off the Newfoundland coast.
You may recall that Sea Shepherd successfully chased a fleet of Cuban trawlers off the Grand Banks in 1994, for which Captain Paul Watson was arrested and put on trial for interfering with commercial fishing. Years later he was acquitted, but it was too late for the cod. The catches were down so low – 1% of historic levels – that the DFO had to declare the fishery closed, saying that they would re-open it in two years. Now here we are 15 years later and the cod population has still not recovered, and the fishery is still closed to commercial fishing.
…Because of the state of the world’s fisheries
Why save the bluefin? Because every commercial fishery in the world is presently in a state of collapse. Captain Paul Watson, founder and president of Sea Shepherd, predicts that there will be no commercial fisheries operating in three to four decades from now.
…Because Sea Shepherd cares about fish
We have a history of defending fish of all kinds. Besides being the leading voice for the conservation of fish species, we “walk the walk” taking our ships out on the high seas to defend these defenseless creatures. From driftnet campaigns, the tuna-dolphin fight, chasing drag trawlers, to dropping “net cutters” on the ocean floor, Sea Shepherd employs direct action to stop the overfishing of our oceans.
If you’ve ever been snorkeling, SCUBA diving or perhaps even gazing at the ocean from land, you’ve probably seen a sea turtle and looked on admiringly at its size, grace and peaceful demeanor. Sea turtles are some of the oldest living creatures, they are one of the few species so ancient that they watched the dinosaurs evolve and become extinct. There are seven species of sea turtles in the world including green, flatback, hawksbill, leatherback, loggerhead, Kemp’s ridley and olive ridley. Four of these species have been identified as "endangered" or "critically endangered,” and another two are classed as "vulnerable,” by the IUCN Red List of Endangered species.
One of the reasons sea turtle populations are slow to rebound is they take several decades for adults to reach sexual maturity in order to reproduce. Although sea turtles usually lay about 100 eggs at a time, on average, only one egg from each nest will survive to adulthood.
This series of images shows a Sea Shepherd volunteer assisting the process of going from an egg to hatchling (Click to enlarge)
While many of the things that endanger turtle hatchlings are natural, such as predators including sharks, raccoons, foxes, and seagulls, humans now pose a major threat to sea turtle survival. Turtles often fall victim to fishing bycatch due to imprecise fishing methods. Long-lines, driftnets, marine debris and abandoned fishing nets are all recurring causes of accidental sea turtle death. In addition to having to contend with predators and pollution, there is a black-market demand for tortoiseshell for both decorative and supposed health benefits. And if that’s not enough, turtle meat and eggs are regularly consumed by some cultures as food, and even considered a delicacy. Sea turtles are also vulnerable to pollution and disease because they spend a portion of their lives at the surface.
Sea turtles play key roles in two ecosystems that are important to our survival, as well as theirs: oceans and beaches/dunes. In the oceans, sea turtles are one of very few creatures that consume sea grass from the sea floor. Sea turtles act as grazing animals that cut the grass short and help maintain the health of the sea grass beds, which need to readily groomed. Sea grass beds provide breeding and developmental grounds for numerous species of fish, shellfish and crustaceans. Without sea grass beds, many marine species would be lost, as would the lower levels of the food chain. The reactions could result in many more marine species eventually becoming endangered or extinct as well.
Beaches and dunes form a fragile ecosystem that depends on vegetation to protect against erosion. Eggs and hatchlings that fail to make it into the ocean are nutrient sources for dune vegetation. Dune vegetation is able to grow and become stronger with the presence of nutrients from sea turtle eggs, unhatched nests, eggs and trapped hatchlings. As the dune vegetation grows stronger and healthier, the health of the entire beach/dune ecosystem becomes better. Stronger vegetation and root systems help to hold the sand in the dunes and help protect the beach from erosion.
Green sea turtle - The green sea turtle is large and weighty with a wide, smooth carapace (shell), and named for the greenish color of its skin. They inhabit tropical and subtropical coastal waters around the world. There are two types of green turtles, including the Atlantic green turtle, normally found off the shores of Europe and North America, and the Eastern Pacific green turtle, which has been found in coastal waters from Alaska to Chile.
Hawksbill sea turtle - Hawksbills get their name from their tapered heads, which end in a sharp point resembling a bird's beak. Their strikingly colored carapace is serrated and has overlapping scutes (thick bony plates). Hawksbill turtles are found throughout the tropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. They avoid deep waters, preferring coastlines where sponges are abundant and sandy nesting sites are within reach.
Loggerhead sea turtle - Loggerhead turtles are the most abundant of all the marine turtle species in U.S. waters. Their range encompasses all but the most frigid waters of the world's oceans. They seem to prefer coastal habitats, but often frequent inland water bodies and will travel hundreds of miles out to sea. The largest of all hard-shelled turtles (leatherbacks are the largest but have soft shells), loggerheads have massive heads, strong jaws, and a reddish-brown shell, or carapace.
Flatback sea turtle – Flatbacks are endemic to the continental shelf of Australia. Its common name comes from its flattened carapace compared to other sea turtles. Females lay fewer eggs than other species, but they are much larger in size. Thus, the hatchlings are larger in size, making them more difficult to be eaten by predators.
Leatherback sea turtle – Largest of the sea turtles, it is also one of the longest-living marine species that is sadly, greatest at risk for extinction. Leatherback turtles roam tropical and sub-tropical waters of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans. They are found as far north as the British Isles to as far south as Australia. The turtles grow as large as nine feet long, six feet wide and can weigh over 1,000 pounds. Leatherback turtles are covered in a namesake rubbery shell and can dive thousands of feet in search of soft-bodied prey like jellyfish.
Kemp’s ridley sea turtle – The Kemp’s ridley turtle is the world’s most endangered sea turtle, with a worldwide female nesting population roughly estimated at just 1,000 individuals. Found primarily in the Gulf of Mexico, but also as far north as Nova Scotia, Kemp’s ridleys are among the smallest sea turtles. Their upper shell, or carapace, is a greenish-grey color, and their bellies are off-white to yellowish. Unlike other sea turtles, female Kemp's ridley turtles come ashore to lay their eggs in the daylight hours, which makes hatchlings even more susceptible to predators.
Olive ridley sea turtle - Olive ridleys get their name from the coloring of their heart-shaped shell, which starts out gray but becomes olive green once the turtles are adults. They have one to two visible claws on each of their paddle-like flippers. The olive ridley turtle is named for the generally greenish color of its skin and shell, or carapace. It is closely related to the Kemp’s ridley, with the primary distinction being that olive ridleys are found only in warmer waters, including the southern Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. Olive and Kemp’s ridleys are the smallest of the sea turtles.
Whether a full-on sea turtle campaign, or through inadvertent efforts on other campaigns, Sea Shepherd has been defending sea turtles and their habitats for multiple decades. On any campaign at sea, Sea Shepherd searches and collects illegal longlines and discarded fishing nets, amongst other marine debris, to ensure that sea turtles do not wind up entangled or worse. Sea Shepherd has also organized international beach cleanups to clear coastlines of garbage that pollutes sea turtle habitat.
To show their support for the plight of sea turtles and those who risk their lives to defend them, Sea Shepherd added a new ship to their fleet, the M/Y Jairo Mora Sandoval, named after the 26-year-old Costa Rican activist brutally murdered in Costa Rica in May 2013 for protecting sea turtles from poachers. Captain Paul Watson vowed that Sandoval’s name and heroism would not be forgotten. Thus, the Jairo Mora Sandoval is involved in anti-poaching operations off the coast of West Africa under the direction of the Senegalese government.
During the Summer of 2001, Sea Shepherd crewmembers camped out on the remote north shore beaches of Tobago, of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, to guard the leatherback sea turtles from poachers. Not a single turtle was killed while Sea Shepherd was standing guard during this campaign. Crewmembers observed the turtles crawling ashore to nest, laying their eggs, and returning safely back to the sea.