WATSON TRIAL BEGINS; SEA SHEPHERD MAY GET INTO THE SEAL WOOL BUSINESS

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 1994:

ST. JOHNS, Newfoundland–
Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd
Conservation Society was confident and perhaps
even exhuberant March 21, after the Canadian
government presented its case concerning four
counts of criminal mischief brought in connec-
tion with a July confrontation between The
Cleveland Amory, Watson’s vessel at the time,
and the Cuban dragnetting vessel Rio Las
Casas. Three of the counts, pertaining to
alleged reckless endangerment of human life,
could bring Watson a life term in prison.

“The prosecutors presented their case
and showed their film and the Canadian Coast
Guard officers gave their testimony,” Watson
told ANIMAL PEOPLE, “and then the judge
asked, “Is that all you have?” None of the
Canadian government witnesses were able to
substantiate the most serious charge, that
Watson’s ship bumped the Cuban ship, and the
film showed no actual contact, Watson said.
The case went to trial one day before
the scheduled start of the annual seal hunt.
Watson was also cheerfully optimistic that he’d
found a way––in addition to tourism––to make
three-week-old harp seals worth far more in the
future alive than dead.
“While we were waiting around for
the trial to begin,” he explained, “we got out
onto the ice in the Magdalene islands and
brushed a lot of seals.” With Canadian govern-
ment encouragement, Watson and friends gath-
ered 75 bags of wool from harp seals who were
then molting from the whitecoat to the beater
stage. The wool will be spun, carded, and
made into demonstration products such as
sweaters and sleeping bags, in hopes of starting
an industry. Watson said most of the seals were
easily approached and receptive to the brushing.
Watson, an Atlantic Canada native,
helped lead the campaign that ended the off-
shore clubbing of infant harp seals in 1983. The
landsmen’s infant harp seal hunt continues.
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