Canada appears to have adopted the Napoleonic Code in their dealings with organizations and individuals that threaten the sacred Canadian cultural ritual of bashing out the brains of baby seals.
Not only is it a crime under the very Orwellian "Seal Protection Act" to witness, film or photograph a seal being killed, but it now appears that Canada is attempting to deliver a sentence and penalty without a trial to a party not charged with any crime.
Back in April of this year, the Dutch registered Farley Mowat Captain Alex Cornelissen, a Dutch citizen and Peter Hammarstedt, a Swedish citizen were arrested in international waters by the Canadian government and charged with the "crime" of approaching closer than a half a nautical mile to an area where sealers were clubbing and shooting seal pups on the ice.
The Sea Shepherd ship Farley Mowat was seized on April 12th and brought in under guard to Sydney, Nova Scotia where it has been held ever since, apparently at a cost of $487,000.
The ship was never arrested nor have charges been brought against the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, the owner of the ship.
Yet this week, the Canadian government filed a statement of claim against the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society for $487,000. They did so without going to court and without even notifying Sea Shepherd that they were doing so. Sea Shepherd learned of this from an article in the Calgary Herald.
Of course, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society does not have any intention of paying a single penny to the government of Canada. Sea Shepherd considers the boarding and seizing of the Farley Mowat to be an act of high seas piracy.
The government originally demanded that the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society pay a $50,000 bond for the release of the ship. Sea Shepherd considered this to be a ransom and refused to post it.
Captain Watson responded by setting conditions for the release of the Farley Mowat, demanding that the government pay $1,000 a day for every day they held the ship, that the vessel be returned in the same condition it was taken, that charges be dropped against Captain Cornelissen and 1st Officer Peter Hammarstedt and that Canadian Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Loyola Hearn apologize for his illegal seizure of the ship.
In October, Captain Paul Watson issued a media release stating that the government was saving Sea Shepherd a great deal of money by holding the ship and paying for the berthage of the vessel thus freeing Sea Shepherd to direct financial resources towards the preparation of the Steve Irwin for Operation Musashi.
This was a calculated media release to embarrass the Canadian government and to illustrate to the Canadian taxpayers, just how much it was costing them to keep the Farley Mowat in custody.
It was a ploy that worked. A few days later, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans informed Sea Shepherd that the ship would be released. Sea Shepherd responded by reminding the government of the conditions for receiving the ship back.
And now it looks like the DFO has countered by filing a statement of claim for the tax dollars they wasted on the charade they pulled to impress the sealers of Newfoundland and Quebec. The statement of claim filed by the DFO includes security, shipyard and berthing expenses, as well as marine survey costs incurred between April 12 and the end of November. The security costs were to keep Sea Shepherd from stealing the vessel back and to keep the sealers from sinking the ship.
In addition to the $487,000, the government also paid for air surveillance to track the Farley Mowat, travel and overtime for fishery officers and coast guard surveillance, according to documents obtained under access to information laws and made available to the Canadian media.
The costs attached to air surveillance and expenses for fishery officers were not detailed in the documents, but logs show that the icebreaker George R.Pearkes spent nearly 12 full days between March 29 and April 14 supporting the RCMP in tracking and seizing the Farley Mowat.
If the government prevails in their attempt to confiscate the Farley Mowat they will then have to pay for the decommissioning and disposal of the ship which could be a significant amount.
"It costs money to retire a ship, and that is a bill that the government of Canada will have to pay - not us," said Captain Paul Watson.
If the ship is returned to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, the Society intends to utilize the vessel as a marine conservation museum in New England. The society does not intend to use the ship for future campaigns.
"It is an old ship, built in 1958 and it is a ship that has served us well in campaigns between 1997 and 2008," said Captain Watson. "We would love to keep her as an educational vessel but our focus is on upholding marine conservation law and we need faster ships like the Steve Irwin and the Sirenian to hunt down the criminals destroying our oceans. The Farley Mowat, as much as we love that ship is no longer up to the tasks we require of her."
The government will also have to pay for legal fees related to the court case against two Farley Mowat crew members. The trial is scheduled for trial in April 2009.
Paul Steele, director general of DFO's protection and conservation branch, noted in a May 2008 e-mail to the department's top managers that these legal costs are going to be "significant" and will put financial "pressure" on his branch.
"For a slaughter already subsidized by the Canadian tax-payers, this is yet another example of how far the government is willing to go to squander tax dollars to keep the public from monitoring and documenting the killing of seals," said Captain Paul Watson.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society considers the Farley Mowat to be on active duty.
"Our ship is a thorn in the side of the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans," said Captain Watson. "It is a symbol of resistance against wildlife slaughter and ecological destruction. It is a financial burden and a political embarrassment to the Canadian government. It is an enduring mistake for Loyola Hearn's folly, his shameful legacy now that he has retired from politics. The ship where it sits in Sydney, Nova Scotia is now a symbol of government waste, arrogance and incompetence. The Farley Mowat is doing a wonderful job right where it sits."