Commentary by Paul Watson
Founder and President of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

For years we've listened to the Canadian government defend the largest slaughter of seals in the world by citing indigenous rights. Every year the Department of Fisheries and Oceans hires Inuit spokespeople to go to Europe and to the media to argue that ending the seal hunt will hurt native people.

In July of this year when I spoke at the Idea City Conference in Toronto, I was preceded on the platform by Aaju Peter, an Inuit woman wearing a sealskin coat who made an emotional appeal for support for the killing of seals, implying that those who opposed the seal hunt were advocating the genocide of the Inuit people. She presented herself as a sealer and a designer of sealskin coats.

It was not difficult to counter her arguments however because the seal hunt we oppose does not have a single Inuit person participating in it. The Inuit kill about 10,000 adult seals every year in Canada's far North. The obscene Newfoundland and Gulf of St. Lawrence seal slaughter sees the extermination of 325,000 seal pups every March and April.

What Aaju Peter did not say is that she is an employee of the Canadian Department of Justice and she was given a paid leave to go on the road and promote the seal slaughter.

At a meeting in Iceland a few years ago, a Canadian representative of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans actually told assembled proponents of whaling and sealing that opposition to these practices was primarily emotional and the only way to counter emotion was with a greater emotional appeal and therefore he advocated that whenever possible, whalers and sealers should connect their trade to indigenous cultures. Ever since, every time we see a protest against sealing, a hired group of Inuit are trucked to the scene to argue that anti-sealers are racists.

Of course there are indigenous peoples who have spoken out against the seal hunt but the Canadian media tends not to listen to them. Their statements do not fit into the government's propaganda plan.

Arnaituk M. Tarkirk, an Inuit from Kuujjuak, Quebec wrote the following letter in the Ottawa Citizen:

We have been hearing all about the European vote to ban the importation of seal products from the so-called seal hunt. I am Inuk and I would like to say what I think about this.

The money from the hunt goes to Norway mostly and it has nothing to do with the Inuit.

We are skillful hunters who hunt adult animals for food; that is not the same thing as bashing a pup, which can't move, over the head.

In fact, if the hunt were stopped, we would benefit most. There would be more seals left for us to eat, when they are a few years older, and also people would not have an aversion to sealskin products as they have after seeing the way they kill pups, so craftwork with adult skins would be more popular.

The Hudson's Bay Company and the government are just using the Inuit to further their own purposes. I know people who are against the seal hunt and they are not against the Inuit.

I am an Inuk, and I oppose the seal hunt.

This week, the Canadian government made its position on Indigenous Rights clear to the entire world. This nation that justifies the theft of land and the genocide of its native people has declared that it has no apologies for the past.

This week the United Nations General Assembly has adopted a non-binding declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples after 22 years of debate. The treaty sets down protections for the human rights of native peoples, and for their land and resources. It passed despite opposition from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. They said it was incompatible with their own laws. There are estimated to be 370 million indigenous people in the world.

The General Assembly passed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, with 143 countries voting in favor, four voting against, and 11 abstaining.

Amazing! The government of Canada, the same government that uses the Inuit to justify the horrific annual slaughter of seals, the same government that uses Native people to justify the fur trade now declares that rights of Native people is "incompatible" with the laws of Canada.

I'll repeat that because it seems to me to be vaguely important. The government of Canada along with Australia, New Zealand, and the United States have said that acknowledging rights for indigenous people is "incompatible" with their laws.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has always recognized the rights of indigenous peoples and we have never opposed the legal hunting of whales and seals by indigenous people. The recent killing of a resident Gray whale by five member of the Makah tribe was illegal under international, national and tribal laws. Opposing the illegal kill of a whale is consistent with our position of respecting and acknowledging indigenous rights.

In fact, we have given more than lip service to our support for Indigenous Rights. In 1973, I served as a medic to assist the American Indian Movement during the retaking of Wounded Knee from the United States government. In 1989, I stood with Chief Paulinho Paiakan and the Kayapo people to oppose the World Bank's construction of a dam on the Xingu River in Brazil. In 1991, the Sea Shepherd II, my crew and a crew of Gitksan and Wet'suet'wen people from British Columbia intercepted, boarded and seized the Columbus replica caravel the Santa Maria in the waters of Puerto Rico. In 1995 at the invitation of some of the Elders of the Makah Nation, we intervened to protect whales from illegal whaling by some Makah who wanted to kill whales. This year, The Mohawks presented our two Sea Shepherd ships with the flag and registry of the Five Nations of the Iroquois.

The Canadian government on the other hand has demonstrated a history of deceit and manipulation when it comes to its pretense of defending indigenous rights by defending non-native sealing under the guise of aboriginal rights. In short, the government has a history of lies both with its nefarious dealings with indigenous cultures and with its manipulative dealings with conservation issues. The bottom line is that the government of Canada serves its corporate masters and resources and indigenous peoples are simply a commodity to be exploited and sold for profit.

Sea Shepherd
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 11 - Big Fish
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 11 - Big Fish
This week the crew of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's ships The Farley Mowat and The Martin Sheen find and retrieve an illegal totoaba bass net from the critically endangered vaquita marina's habitat Watch all episodes at: http://www.seashepherd.org/milagro2/multimedia/videos.html ‪#‎OpMilag...
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 10 - Light up the Dark
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 10 - Light up the Dark
Actor Gregg Lowe crews with Sea Shepherd to help us protect the vaquita. The M/V Farley Mowat lights up the vaquita refuge and deters poacher from laying deadly nets in the vaquita marina's habitat. Watch all episodes at: http://seashepherd.org/milagro2/multimedia
Sea Shepherd Wildlife - False Killer Whales
Sea Shepherd Wildlife - False Killer Whales
The first video of our new series "Sea Shepherd Wildlife". This episode is about one of the lesser know large dolphins - The False Killer Whales. Learn more about these beautiful creatures with the Sea Shepherd crew. Share it with your friends. Video by Carolina A. Castro Narration by Nicole D'Entr...
Sea Shepherd Removes gillnet from Endangered Vaquita Habitat
Sea Shepherd Removes gillnet from Endangered Vaquita Habitat
Sea Shepherd Removes gillnet from Endangered Vaquita Habitat.
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 05 - Gillnet Damage
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 05 - Gillnet Damage
Join the crew of the R/V Martin Sheen as they witness the damage a gillnet can cause to marine wildlife while patrolling the endangered vaquita's refuge in Mexico.
From Taiji to Tanks: A Look at the Barren Lives of Captive Dolphins
From Taiji to Tanks: A Look at the Barren Lives of Captive Dolphins
In November 2015, Sea Shepherd's Cove Guardians observed the captive cetaceans at Japan's Adventure World.Though this marine park has dolphins from Taiji, the suffering behind cetacean captivity looks much the same around the world. To learn how you can support Operation Henkaku and help us break t...
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 03 - Sailing with Dolphins
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 03 - Sailing with Dolphins
The crew of Sea Shepherd's research sailing vessel, the R/V Martin Sheen, sails in search of the smallest cetacean in the world, the endangered vaquita marina porpoise.
M/V Farley Mowat Crew Prepares for Operation Milagro II
M/V Farley Mowat Crew Prepares for Operation Milagro II
Join the crew of the M/V Farley Mowat as they prepare the ship to embark on its maiden Sea Shepherd campaign - Operation Milagro II, Fall 2015 Vaquita Porpoise Defense Campaign. With an estimated 97 individuals remaining, the endangered vaquita is facing the very real threat of extinction. Please ...
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 01 - Turtle Rescue
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 01 - Turtle Rescue
The Vlog from the Gulf of California 01 - Turtle Rescue. Follow the crew of the Research Vessel, the R/V Martin Sheen, as they patrol the upper Gulf of California in Mexico - to protect the most endangered marine mammal in the world, the vaquita marina porpoise.
Taiji, Japan - Pilot whale tethered and drowned
Taiji, Japan - Pilot whale tethered and drowned
A wounded pilot whale, visibly bleeding and barely able to stay above the surface of the water, is tethered and drowned in the cove by Taiji's killers, after briefly escaping from under the tarps where its pod is being slaughtered.
Operation Milagro II Vaquita Defense Campaign
Operation Milagro II Vaquita Defense Campaign
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society returns to Mexico to protect the critically endangered vaquita marina in the only waters on Earth this petite porpoise calls home. Working in partnership with the Mexican government, Sea Shepherd will strive to bring about a miracle for the endangered vaquita before...
Sea Shepherd Central America Goodwill Campaign for the Pacific
Sea Shepherd Central America Goodwill Campaign for the Pacific
A look at Sea Shepherd Central America's journey of research and observation to Cocos Island, a world-renowned marine sanctuary located 350 miles offshore. The goal of the goodwill campaign is to promote awareness for the protection of species that inhabit the Central Pacific.
Gregg Lowe Supports Sea Shepherd
Gregg Lowe Supports Sea Shepherd
Actor Gregg Lowe, star of "X-Men: Days of Future Past," discusses the importance of Sea Shepherd's work to protect the oceans, why he is vegan for the planet and for all species, and his desire to join a Sea Shepherd campaign to defend ocean wildlife on the frontlines. Video by: Reece Pickering
Operation Henkaku 2015 Dolphin Defense Campaign
Operation Henkaku 2015 Dolphin Defense Campaign
Sea Shepherd's Cove Guardians are gearing up for the sixth season of our Taiji Dolphin Defense Campaign. As we return to the cove to expose the brutal capture and slaughter of dolphins and small whales, stand with us! The dolphins need you! To volunteer as a Cove Guardian, please email groundcrew@s...
12 Defendants, One Movement. Warning Graphic Footage.
12 Defendants, One Movement. Warning Graphic Footage.
“We were one small boat and five bodies against 500 people on the beach and 50 boats pushing…but there’s no reason not to fight.” On August 12, 61 pilot whales were slaughtered on the killing beach of Sandavágur in the Faroe Islands. With the odds stacked against them, in the face of adve...
Operation Jairo Crew Protect Nesting Leatherback Turtle
Operation Jairo Crew Protect Nesting Leatherback Turtle
Just feet from where they were attacked not a month before, Sea Shepherd's Operation Jairo volunteers defend a nesting leatherback turtle from poachers on Pacuare Beach in Costa Rica. All 63 eggs are now being protected in a hatchery, where they will have the best chance of survival out of the hands...
#StandUp250 Corsica (France) - Xavier Figarella
#StandUp250 Corsica (France) - Xavier Figarella
"They asked me, 'do you want cuffs' and I said 'Yes, it's better.' Because inside it was like an explosion.” Xavier is one of 7 Sea Shepherd crewmembers arrested in the Faroe Islands since July 20. Their 'crime'? Defending pilot whales from slaughter. For more information on how you can #StandUp...
Meet the Crew: Operation Jairo – Honduras
Meet the Crew: Operation Jairo – Honduras
Meet some of the Sea Shepherd volunteers in Honduras for Operation Jairo, Sea Shepherd's 2015 Sea Turtle Defense Campaign! The crew hails from all over the world, from countries including the United States, Australia, Norway, and France. These volunteers work tirelessly to patrol the beaches in Hond...
#StandUp250 Italy - Marianna Baldo
#StandUp250 Italy - Marianna Baldo
“In the same way that they think they …. have the right to kill these animals, that are wild animals, I have exactly the same right to save them.” Marianna is one of 7 Sea Shepherd crewmembers arrested in the Faroe Islands since July 20. Their 'crime'? Defending pilot whales from slaughter. ...
The Trial Begins
The Trial Begins
Video update from Tórshavn court this morning as five Sea Shepherd crewmembers stand trial for StandingUp for the pilot whales of the Faroe Islands. Take action: http://www.seashepherd.org/standup250
Denmark's Shame
Denmark's Shame
The slaughter of cetaceans is outlawed throughout the European Union, including Denmark, in accordance with Appendix II of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention). However, in the Faroe Islands, the slaughter of pilot whales and other small ce...
#StandUp250 Belgium - Christophe Bondue
#StandUp250 Belgium - Christophe Bondue
"We're just here ... to try to save lives." Christophe is one of 7 Sea Shepherd crewmembers arrested in the Faroe Islands since July 20. Their 'crime'? Defending pilot whales from slaughter. For more information on how you can #StandUp250 for the pilot whales of the Faroe Islands, and for Sea Shephe...
#StandUp250 South Africa - Rosie Kunneke
#StandUp250 South Africa - Rosie Kunneke
"Calling something a tradition doesn't make it right. I grew up in the tradition of apartheid and we begged the world to come and help us; to get rid of that ugliness." Rosie is one of 7 Sea Shepherd crewmembers arrested in the Faroe Islands since July 20. Their 'crime'? Defending pilot whales from...
Mass Slaughter Of Pilot Whales In The Faroe Islands. WARNING. GRAPHIC
Mass Slaughter Of Pilot Whales In The Faroe Islands. WARNING. GRAPHIC
WARNING: GRAPHIC. Mass Slaughter Of Pilot Whales In The Faroe Islands. Sea Shepherd Crew Arrested. On July 23 2015, approximately 250 pilot whales were slaughtered on the killing beaches of the Faroe Islands. The slaughters, known by the traditional Faroese term ‘grindadráp, took place in two se...
Meet the Crew: Operation Jairo – Costa Rica
Meet the Crew: Operation Jairo – Costa Rica
Meet the team of dedicated volunteers working to protect nesting turtles and their hatchlings on the shores of Costa Rica as part of Operation Jairo, Sea Shepherd’s 2015 Sea Turtle Defense Campaign. This international crew includes volunteers from Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, France, Germany, th...