The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society crew returned from the ice floes of the Canadian Gulf of St. Lawrence on March 14th, 2003. The objective of the on-ice campaign for 2003 was exploratory. Prior to making plans to return to the seal hunt in 2004, it was necessary to assess the practicality of bringing our ship Farley Mowat to the seal hunt. We took promotional pictures and videos of the seals for the purpose of producing an educational and public service video. Several Media journalists and photographers, along with crew went to the ice with us to obtain material for their stories and to familiarize themselves with the conditions on the ice.
As much as the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society would like to directly intervene against the slaughter this year, we cannot do so because our ship is in the Southwest Pacific working on a campaign to oppose illegal long lining. The announcement by the Canadian government last month of the massive escalation in kill quotas has not given us sufficient time to respond in an organized and efficient manner.
This year, Captain Paul Watson led a small crew into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Prior to traveling to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Captain Watson undertook a one week promotional tour of Toronto and Ottawa, Ontario to speak about his recently released book Seal Wars -Twenty-Five Years on the Front Lines with the Harp Seals.This provided a media forum from which to speak about the seal kill. This was a successful experience because it is very difficult to get Canadian media coverage of the Canadian seal hunt. Captain Watson did over a dozen interviews and garnered a great deal of media exposure over the seal hunt.
Captain Watson arrived in Charlottetown, P.E.I. on March 3rd. He was joined by professional photographer Ignacio Aronovich of Brazil. During the next two days additional crew arrived. The volunteer crew included:
Captain Paul Watson: Coordinator for the 2003 Seal Campaign.
Ignacio "Iggy" Aronovich: From Brazil. Iggy is one of the best professional photographers that Sea Shepherd has had the pleasure of working with. Iggy had been with the Farley Mowat on the recent campaign to Antarctica.
Jean Yves Le Casse: From Sept Illes, Quebec. Helicopter Pilot. Jean Yves was our pilot back in 1998, the last time that the Sea Shepherd III was at the seal hunt in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Captain Al "Jet" Johnson: From Whistler, B.C. Al is a professional pilot, retired as an American Airlines captain. Al was with Captain Watson on the very first campaign to protect the seals in 1976 and again in 1977. He returned in 1979, 1981, 1983, 1995, and 1998 to assist Sea Shepherd in the fight to protect the seals. Allison Lance Watson: Captain Paul Watson's wife and our most fervent seal defender.
Ronald Colby: From Los Angeles, California. Professional Film Director.
Dean and Susan Walton: From St. Lucia, Caribbean Islands. Dean will be working to help produce public service announcements to help raise awareness of the seal slaughter.
Our expedition into the Gulf of St. Lawrence found the seals on solid ice north and east of the Magdalen Islands. Temperatures were very low this year, lower than in previous years, but despite this the ice pack was diminished, lending credence to the threat posed to the seals by global warming and the steady decrease in ice cover over the last decade.
The good news is that the ice is moving away from the sealers on the Magdalen Islands. Unfortunately, winds can shift and there is a possibility of the ice moving in closer.
Captain Watson and Allison had the opportunity to approach a tourist group out of the Magdalens. Captain Watson has long advocated tourism as an alternative to the killing of the seals. Unfortunately, they found this tour guide for this group to be decidedly unfriendly. He was wearing a wolf skin hat and questioned why the Sea Shepherd crew had approached their group.
Captain Watson questioned two tourists from New Mexico. They were not aware of the escalation in quota and told us of the briefing from their tour guides prior to coming to the ice.
The tour guides guide told them that the seal populations needed to be reduced, and that the seals were responsible for the decline of the codfish populations and the destruction of the cod fishery. Clearly this tourist organization continues to spread propaganda and misinformation about the seal hunt.
This particular group, Chateau Madelinot is based in the Magdalen Islands and conducts these tours annually. Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is urging the public to boycott these tours run by this seal-hating company. The fact is they are just sealers out to make a buck off of gullible tourists.
There is a responsible tour operation that is not anti-seal run by Natural Habitat Adventures and people wishing to participate in their seal watch tours can reach them at www.naturalhabitatadventures.com
Where is the campaign going?
It is imperative that we help to raise awareness of the escalation of the Canadian Seal Hunt. Towards this goal, Sea Shepherd is working to produce a short film on the seal hunt for showing in movie theaters plus a public service announcement utilizing celebrity spokespeople.
Captain Paul Watson is organizing a book of photos and essays about the harp seals to be entitled Seal Nation. His recently released book Seal Wars (In Canada and the United States), will be published in Great Britain next spring.
Sea Shepherd is organizing a cyber army of volunteers to help direct protests against Canadian government officials and companies supporting the seal hunt.
We are working to have the Farley Mowat return in 2004 to protect the seals. Towards this end, the Society is recruiting volunteers willing to go to the ice floes to protect the harp seals from the brutal clubs of the sealers. Those willing to volunteer for this mission in April of 2004 should contact the Sea Shepherd office at [email protected]
We are also looking to recruit sponsors to cover fuel and costs to bring the ship to the Seals in 2004.
The Canadian government has set a three-year program to slaughter over one million harp seals. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has also set a three-year program to oppose the slaughter. The ship will go in with crew to directly intervene in 2004.
SSCS would like to thank the Charlottetown Hotel in Prince Edward Island, and Heli-Express of Sept Iles, Quebec.
A thank-you to Pierce and Keeley Brosnan, Linda Blair, Aiden Quinn, and Richard Dean Anderson for supporting this campaign and for trying to make it to the ice with us. They all volunteered but were unable to participate due to scheduling problems. However they have offered to help us with our campaign as spokespeople.
A very Special THANK-YOU to PATAGONIA for donating cold weather gear for this campaign.