Thursday, January 19, 2006
Canada Dismisses Charges Against Captain Paul Watson
The Canadian Federal Prosecutor in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island has dismissed all charges against Captain Paul Watson under the Canada Shipping Act.
The dismissal of the charges come only three days after the acquittal of Captain Watson under Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) regulations for approaching within a half a nautical mile of a seal hunt without a permit. That verdict also established that Captain Watson had a legal right to approach the seal hunt onboard his ship the Farley Mowat.
The Canada Shipping Act charges were for failure to have a Canadian government-certificated Canadian resident as Master of the Farley Mowat and for failure to report the name of the Master to the Canadian Coast Guard in Canadian waters.
The defense does have evidence of the fact that Captain Watson reported to the Coast Guard that he was the captain of the Farley Mowat. The report was recorded by the Fundy Coast Guard radio operator in St. John, New Brunswick, when Captain Watson first entered Canadian territorial waters
The residency issue was a Catch 22 and just a bit confusing. Under Revenue Canada regulations, a non-duty paid vessel cannot have a Canadian resident as Captain. The Farley Mowat is a Canadian-flagged vessel which operates outside of Canada and did not pay duty to be operated in Canadian waters by a Canadian resident. Transport Canada regulations state that the Farley Mowat must have a captain who is a resident of Canada. Captain Paul Watson is a Canadian citizen but a resident of the United States. He has also been captain of the Farley Mowat under the Canadian flag since March 2002 without Transport Canada taking any action until the Farley Mowat went to the seal hunt in March 2005.
"My crew were attacked on the ice by sealers and struck with sealing clubs," said Captain Watson. "In response to our official complaint to lay charges against the sealers, the government arrested eleven of my crew and me for witnessing a seal being killed and then charged me with what amounts to harassment charges under the Canada Shipping Act. The Canadian government has been abusing their authority for decades in their attempts to prevent me from opposing sealing, whaling, and illegal fishing. They have absolutely refused to charge the sealers claiming our presence on the ice provoked the sealers to violence."
Despite having video footage of the assault by the sealers on the Farley Mowat crew, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police refused to lay charges against the sealers. Instead, the government charged Captain Paul Watson with violations of Transport Canada regulations and now admits they had no evidence to do so. The Canadian government is being abusive with their authority and the Federal prosecutor is more motivated by politics than by evidence.
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society continues to oppose the annual East coast slaughter of harp seals.
Read about the charges against the Sea Shepherd Eleven.