Captain Paul Watson delivered a lecture in a somewhat hostile environment on Tuesday, July 12. He narrowly escaped with his freedom.
He arrived at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia to deliver a lecture on the Canadian seal slaughter sponsored by the Animal Rights Collective of Halifax
Captain Watson did on-camera interviews with the local television stations before beginning his talk. The lecture was attended by about fifty students and members of the public. There were also Department of Fisheries and Oceans officers in the audience and four police officers.
Captain Watson used the opportunity to blast the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for destroying the Atlantic fisheries.
"It was Canadian government mismanagement and incompetence that destroyed the cod fishery on the East coast and the salmon fishery on the West coast. It is the same incompetence that is presently destroying the snow crab fishery. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans with their hired biostitutes have catered to the interests of corporate greed for decades and they continue to refuse to consider the interests of conservation. They continue to scapegoat the seals. As a result the entire eco-system of the Northwest Atlantic has been irreparably damaged," said Captain Watson.
When questioned about the welfare and the concerns of fishermen, Captain Watson was blunt and to the point. "The fishermen are responsible for the situation they find themselves in. It was their draggers, their trawlers, and their long liners that wiped out the fish. They have no one else but themselves to blame. My sympathy lies with the species they plundered and not with them," he said.
Needless to say this was not the message that the Fisheries officers wanted to hear.
After the talk, some students told Captain Watson that the police had positioned themselves to cover the exits to the room. Captain Watson assumed that this meant he might be arrested or served with a summons, most likely for actions with the ship during the March and April seal campaigns.
Looking out a window of the Student Union Building, Captain Watson could plainly see a parked paddy wagon and police cars. A paddy wagon meant an arrest and jail - this was not a mere summons.
Captain Watson took a back exit but was immediately spied by a plain clothes policeman who called out his name. Captain Watson stepped into a stairwell and ran down three flights of steps. He could hear the man chasing him down the steps. He heard additional footfalls joining the first. He reached the ground floor and ran up a second set of outdoor steps around a couple of corners and entered a pub. He made his way to an upstairs deserted beverage room where he decided to sit down, pull out his laptop, and do some work while he waited for the police officers to grow tired of searching for him.
From the window, he could see the officers scurrying around the Student Union Building. He saw them enter the pub. They looked around and left - apparently unaware of the upstairs beverage room.
Inside the Student Union Building, the students who attended the talk were followed to their cars when they left the building.
Captain Watson waited in the beverage room for three hours. He could see the plain clothes officers sitting in two cars watching the building.
At 6:00 p.m. the pub closed and the manager found Captain Watson in the beverage room. Captain Watson said he was up there because it was a quiet place to work and he needed to finish a report. The manager said he could take his time to pack up. At 6:15 p.m., Captain Watson slipped out a side door and avoided the police by walking through back lanes, a park, and around to his car which was parked only a half a block behind the officers.
Captain Watson stepped off the sidewalk to the back of his car, quickly opened the driver's door, slipped behind the wheel, and drove away, passing the police officers who were intently looking at the building.
He then drove out of Halifax.
Captain Watson was actually in Nova Scotia to attend a joint Board meeting by the Sierra Club of the United States of which he is a Director and the Sierra Club of Canada. The meeting is being held in White Point, Nova Scotia, not far from where the Farley Mowat had been berthed in Liverpool in March earlier this year.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans was aware that Captain Watson would be attending this meeting and was prepared to arrest him at the meeting.
Captain Watson decided to leave Nova Scotia instead of attending the meeting.
The question: What were the police intending to arrest him for? Apparently Captain Watson is wanted for conspiracy to disrupt the Canadian seal hunt by bringing his ship to the seal killing grounds without the permission of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.
Captain Watson and his crew had all applied for the permits to go to the hunt and they were told they could be issued permits but only on the condition that the ship would dock in the Magdalen Islands and the crew report to the DFO offices to receive the permits. Captain Watson and his crew could not do so because the fishermen of the Magdalen Islands threatened to kill him and his crew if they landed in their community. And this was not an idle threat. In 1995, Captain Watson was beaten severely in the Magdalens and his crew threatened when he attempted to introduce seal-brushing to the sealers (a cruelty free non-lethal form of utilizing seals by gently brushing their molting hairs which could be used in the same way eider down feathers are utilized - the hollow transparent seal hairs have the same insulating qualities as eider down).
During this year's Seal Campaign, eleven Sea Shepherd crew were arrested on the ice in March and charged with violating the "Seal Protection regulations" by approaching within a half nautical mile of a sealer without permission.
The Sea Shepherd Eleven are scheduled to appear in court for trial in September in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
Immediately prior to their arrest, some of the Sea Shepherd crew were violently assaulted on the ice by sealers. The brutal attacks were video-taped and clearly show sealers striking the Farley Mowat crew members with sealing clubs.
Despite this evidence, no charges have been laid against any of the sealers. Instead the government is using the statements by the assaulted crew members and the videotape as evidence that the crew members are guilty of the crime of photographing a sealer killing a seal.
Captain Watson did express concern at the Dalhousie lecture that this leniency towards allowing the sealers to commit physical assaults against seal defenders is giving the sealers the confidence to escalate their aggression. "When someone is murdered on the ice by a sealer, it will be the Canadian government that is responsible for giving the green light to violence against seal defenders," he said.
Captain Paul Watson is now safely out of Nova Scotia and is safe to return to his ship to prepare for campaigns to oppose poachers in the Galapagos and confronting outlaw Japanese whalers in the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary.