In April 2008, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) illegally boarded an RCMP SWAT team and seized Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's ship, the Farley Mowat, in international waters.
Now the Canadian government wants to give it back.
In April, they towed the ship and crew into Canadian waters to Sydney, Nova Scotia and charged the ship's Captain and 1st Officer with alleged violations of regulations that prohibit people from observing the slaughter of seals.
The government later attempted to ransom the ship back to Sea Shepherd for the sum of a $50,000 bond.
Sea Shepherd responded by informing the Canadian government that the DFO had to meet five conditions for returning the Farley Mowat to the Society.
The five conditions were:
(1) the bond must dropped,
(2) the vessel must be returned in the same condition in which it was taken,
(3) the government must pay a fee of $1,000 a day for each day the ship was held,
(4) the charges against the Captain and 1st Officer must be dropped and the $10,000 bail returned, and
(5) the Canadian Minister of Fisheries and Oceans must issue a letter of apology to Sea Shepherd.
This week, the government, after paying tens of thousands of taxpayers' dollars in berthage and security fees, has dropped the demand for the ransom and has agreed to release the Farley Mowat back to Sea Shepherd without a bond.
Captain Paul Watson, Founder and President of Sea Shepherd, has responded by saying that one of the five conditions has now been met, but that the Society is not prepared to take back the Farley Mowat until three of the remaining four conditions are met, specifically conditions 2, 3, and 4.
"What is the point of receiving our ship back if it has been stripped and damaged and rendered non-operational? The GPS and other equipment critical to the safe operation of the vessel have been removed. The ship's engines have also been rendered inoperable as a safeguard against any attempted theft of the vessel," said Captain Watson. "We need the ship put back in working order, as it was when it was taken. We need the government to compensate for our loss of use of the vessel in other campaigns for more than six months. We need the charges dropped against our two crewmembers. I am, however, prepared to waive the letter of apology from former Minister of Fisheries Loyola Hearn. I will consider his resignation to be an apology."
Sea Shepherd is prepared to go to trial in April 2009, and we fully expect the evidence to support our case. The boarding and seizure of the Farley Mowat and the arrest of its crew were illegal, because the DFO simply does not have jurisdiction over foreign nationals and foreign flagged vessels in international waters.