Sea Shepherd Crew to Shift from the Southern Ice to the Northern Ice
Captain Paul Watson and some of his crew will not rest after defending whales when they return to Australia after three and a half months of chasing and harassing Japanese whaling ships, and will instead continue on to defend baby seals.
Within days of returning to Australia in late March, they will be flying halfway around the world to Bermuda where Sea Shepherd's other ship the Farley Mowat is docked. From there they will head North into the ice packs off Eastern Canada to defend baby harp seals from the ruthless clubs of Canadian sealers.
"There is no rest on planetary duty," said Captain Paul Watson from onboard the Steve Irwin off the coast of Antarctica. "Half our year is spent amongst icebergs and on ice floes. Our job is to hunt the hunters to defend their victims and that takes us from the bottom of the world to the top and many places in between."
Captain Watson has been fighting the Canadian seal slaughter all his life. It was shut down in 1984 and resurrected in 1994.
"All our victories are usually temporary," he said. "Unfortunately our defeats are usually permanent."
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is confident that years of risk and effort will soon pay off. The European nations are banning seal products and seal products have been banned in the United States since 1972. Sea Shepherd has been slowly lobbying to remove the markets at the same time as we have been mounting dramatic confrontations on the ice to physically save the seals from the cruel clubs of the sealers.
Patience and persistence is paying off. The seal hunt survives only because of subsidies doled out to the sealing industry by the government of Canada. It has become a glorified welfare scheme where in return for killing seals for a few weeks the sealers can qualify for unemployment insurance for the rest of the year.
"They say it's part of their culture," said Captain Watson who himself grew up in an Eastern fishing village in the Canadian province of New Brunswick. "It's a culture based on the cruel clubbing of baby seals for a few weeks each year and drinking Canadian Club and beer the rest of the year. It's a culture that any Maritimer with half a brain abandoned generations ago."
In addition to the hazards of thick ice and nasty weather, the Sea Shepherd crew face the threat of violence from the sealers and the threat of arrest under the Canadian "Seal Protection regulations" that make it a criminal offense to "witness or document the killing of a seal without the permission of the government of Canada."
"As a kid I remember these baby killers bragging how they would slice open the beating heart of the first baby seal they kill each spring," said Captain Watson. "They drank the hot blood and smeared it cross upon their foreheads and dabbed blood on their cheeks. They called it the "Rites of Spring." I called them barbarians then, and I call them barbarians still, and as a Canadian and a Maritimer, I have been ashamed of this bloody evil tradition all my life and I've dedicated my life to shutting this monstrous obscenity down forever, and I believe that soon we will see that day when the killing is ended."In 2005 twelve Sea Shepherd crew were arrested after being attacked and assaulted by sealers on the ice. Despite being struck by sealing clubs, punched and kicked, not one sealer was arrested for assault. The attack was video-taped and the sealers identified yet the Royal Canadian Mounted Police stated there was "insufficient evidence" to charge the sealers. The Sea Shepherd crew were jailed and fined for approaching within a half a nautical mile of a seal being killed.