24 Hours in the Killing Fields
From: The Sea Shepherd Marine Conservation ship Farley Mowat
2000 Hours Atlantic Standard Time
1600 Pacific Standard Time
The Gulf of St. Lawrence near the Magdalen Islands
The Sea Shepherd ship Farley Mowat has completed the first day of documentation of the horrific seal slaughter in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
The day began at 0600 Hours AST with the Farley Mowat and her crew surrounded by over eighty sealing vessels escorted by two large Canadian Coast Guard ice-breakers the Amundsen and the Cornwallis.
The night before brought heavy gale winds which crushed the hull of one sealing boat and damaged numerous other vessels.
When the Farley Mowat crew began to document the killing by the sealing vessel Newfoundland Leader, the Coast Guard ship Amundsen came charging through the ice, crushing seal pups in its path. The ice-breaker narrowly avoided collision with the Farley Mowat only because the Farley Mowat put her engines into full reverse to prevent a ramming by the Amundsen.
The Amundsen shadowed the Farley Mowat throughout the day and came dangerously close on many occasions.
The sealing vessel Gulf Clipper attempted to ram the Farley Mowat forcing Captain Paul Watson to back down to avoid a collision. As the Gulf Clipper passed before the bow of the Farley Mowat, the sealing captain pointed a high-powered rifle with scope at the bridge of the Farley Mowat and then trained it on crewmember Jon Batchelor who was standing on the bow at the time.
Captain Watson reported the incident to the Mounted Police officers on board the Amundsen with a request that they order the sealers to desist from pointing weapons at his crew. The Mounties refused to do so.
Apparently, the authorities are more concerned with seal defenders aiming cameras at seal killers than with sealers aiming rifles at seal protectors.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) notified Captain Paul Watson that the crew of the Farley Mowat were in violation of the seal protection (Marine Mammal) regulations by coming within a half a nautical mile of a seal being killed. He was informed that no sealer could be filmed or photographed without a permit from the DFO.
Captain Watson replied that every crewmember had applied for a permit but could not get them issued as the only place DFO was willing to issue them was in the Magdalen Islands where the crew had received death threats and where Captain Watson and his crew had previously been violently assaulted.
Captain Watson said that the crew would continue to document infractions by sealers and asked why the sealers were not being cited for illegal killing. "I saw a sealer kick a pup in the face," said Captain Watson.
The DFO officer replied that he had more pressing concerns than the actions of the sealers.
Later in the afternoon, the crew of the Farley Mowat were able to prevent a sealing crew from killing seals on a large pan of ice. Sixteen crew fanned out across the ice between the seals and the sealers. The sealers retreated and returned to their boat and left the area.
"It was a small victory," said Sea Shepherd Director Dr. Jerry Vlasak. "In the midst of this carnage, saving even a few lives is a cause for rejoicing. It is our one ship against over a hundred sealing vessels and the ships and aircraft of the Canadian government. This is a government sponsored and subsidized killing field. We are trying to do the best we can to bring this atrocity to the attention of the world and to save what lives we can."
The tranquil blue-white ice fields that have served the harp seals as a nursery for the last three weeks have been turned into a Dantean portrait from hell. Streams of blood flow and pool on the ice and the vacant-eyed, cruelly-skinned corpses of thousands of seal pups litter the ice. In the open leads, bleeding bodies bob, many sinking and not recorded in the quotas. The seals are being shot, kicked in the face, and bashed with clubs and spiked clubs called hak-a-piks.
"If ever there was a portrait of man's inhumanity and remorseless cruelty, this mass slaughter is it." said Captain Paul Watson.
"What we are recording here is evidence to back up our international campaign to boycott Canadian seafood products. It is our intention to build this into a worldwide protest movement. We did it in the Seventies and we will do it again." said Captain Watson.
The day ended with a stand-off between the Coast Guard and the crew of the Farley Mowat. The Farley Mowat has been ordered out of the area but has refused to leave. The Coast Guard have tried to intimidate the crew but have not taken any actions to board and arrest the seal defenders.
The slaughter is set to resume again at 0600 Hours on March 30th, and the Farley Mowat and her crew will again be in the thick of the killers and their government-financed protectors.