Seal Defense Campaign 2008
For the first time since 2005, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has sent its ship, the Farley Mowat north into the ice packs off Eastern Canada to defend baby harp seals from the ruthless clubs of Canadian sealers. The Sea Shepherd ship,with an international crew of volunteers, will once again act as shepherds in defence of the harp seal pups in the ice packs of the Gulf of St. Lawrence this year.
Canadian Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn has set this year’s quota at 275,000 harp seals to be killed, 5,000 higher than last year, without any scientific justification and without any market justification. In announcing the new quota Hearn said that the seal slaughter has been improved with new rules to make the hunt more “humane.” The new rules are being imposed in an attempt to convince the European Parliament to not ban seal products into Europe. Canada is spending a small fortune in sending delegations to Europe to plea for the right to continue to massacre seal pups. The new rules call for the sealers to sever the arteries of seals under their flippers after they have been shot or clubbed. In total over 325,000 seals are being targeted this year.
Sea Shepherd has been working to remove the markets for seal products as well as mounting dramatic confrontations on the ice to physically save the seals from the cruel clubs of the sealers. 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.
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. In 2005 eleven 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.
Captain Watson has been fighting the Canadian seal slaughter all his life. The commercial hunt was shut down in 1984 and resurrected in 1994.
Sea Shepherd has turned its attention to the plight of the seals. From out of the Southern deep freeze of the Antarctic and into the Northern freezer of Eastern Canada, from saving whales to saving seals - the work of the shepherds of the sea continues.