The figures are now official. The Canadian government has admitted that it cost nearly three and a half million dollars to rescue the hundreds of seal killers trapped in ice packs earlier this year in April. Two million dollars of that figure was for fuel for the ice-breakers. The budget for supporting sealing operations for this year was $528,000. Over 500 Canadian Coast Guard personnel, 10 ships, and numerous helicopters and aircraft were involved in the sealer rescue operations.
"It was a gross act of irresponsibility for the government to have given clearance for hundreds of wooden-hulled fishing boats to go to the ice to kill seals," said Founder and President of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Captain Paul Watson. "The government is so eager to kill seals that they knowingly put hundreds of human lives in danger and caused extensive damages to and losses of numerous Newfoundland fishing boats. If these wooden-hulled vessels are allowed to return next year then the government will be guilty of even more incompetence than they have already demonstrated."
In April 2007, the ice packs on the East Coast of Newfoundland were driven hard against the coast by heavy winds causing the sealing vessels to be caught in the intense pressure within the ice pack. Not only was the government negligent in sending these puny boats into the pack, it also failed to provide sufficient weather warnings about the increasing ice pressure. To keep the stranded sealers happy, the Canadian Coast Guard acted as errand boys delivering groceries, cigarettes, and beer to the trapped boats.
"I have long accused the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) of being the single most incompetent bureaucracy in the Canadian government. They continue to hold this title," remarked Captain Watson. "The DFO permanently destroyed the cod fishery on the East Coast and they have diminished every other commercial fishery in the country. They have grossly mismanaged the seal slaughter and consistently lied about seals and seal defenders. Now we have them sending men in vessels not suited for such harsh conditions into treacherous ice conditions to kill seals."
Sea Shepherd ship Farley Mowat was harassed by the Canadian government when the ship headed to the ice floes in 2005 to intervene against the killing of seals. Captain Watson explained, "The government said that the Farley Mowat was not strong enough or safe enough to navigate the ice floes although we had navigated through hundreds of miles of ice packs from the North to South Pole. The Farley Mowat is an ice-class steel-hulled powerfully built 50-meter ship, yet, they attempted to stop us from going to the ice at the same time they allowed hundreds of wooden-hulled non-ice class 20-meter fishing boats to go to the packs. Talk about a double standard and a complete lack of regard for safety conditions. What they were saying was that the Farley Mowat was not politically approved to enter the ice."
Sea Shepherd is currently engaged in a legal action against the Canadian government challenging the regulations that protect the sealers as a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In Canada, it is illegal to photograph, film, or even witness a seal being killed without permission of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.
"Illegal to witness an atrocity under the seal protection regulations?" questioned Farley Mowat 1st Officer Gunter Filho of Brazil. "This is like something out of Orwell's 1984."
Twelve members of the Farley Mowat crew were arrested in April 2005 for approaching too close to sealers killing seals. They were each fined $1,000 except Captain Watson who was fined $3,000 and banned from the seal hunt for three years. Sea Shepherd is presently appealing the convictions.
Click here to read the Canadian National Post story on this issue.