Rough weather slows 2005 Canadian seal hunt

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2005:

CHARLOTTESTOWN, P.E.I.– Pack ice and
rough weather reportedly kept Gulf of St.
Lawrence sealers from killing more than 40% of
their quota of 90,000 seals, in the first phase
of the annual Atlantic Canada seal massacre, but
the 56,000 seals they didn’t kill will be added
to the Labrador Front quota.
The full 2005 quota of 319,500 seals is
the largest in 50 years–although the sealers
overkilled their quota last year, pelting
365,971 seals in all, 97% of them under three
months old.
The 2005 protest effort, including
rallies in 27 cities worldwide, was the biggest
in 22 years, but was upstaged by nature.
“The sealing vessel Sandy Beach was
abandoned 30 miles north of the Magdalen
Islands,” recited Sea Shepherd Conservation
Society founder Paul Watson from the bridge of
the Sea Shepherd Farley Mowat on March 30, as
the hunt got started. “Her crew were airlifted
by a Coast Guard helicopter. The Yankee Point
was abandoned, is listing heavily in the ice,
and will most likely sink. The crew were rescued
by the Cooper Island. The Cooper Island is now
listing heavily with 40 sealers aboard. The
icebreaker Earl Grey is en route to rescue them.
“The Horizon I was under tow by the Coast
Guard ship Amundsen when the tow line broke. The
vessel is reported abandoned,” Watson continued.
“The Jean Mathieu has called for help. Two
distress signals came from unidentified sealing
vessels. Some sealing vessels reported having
their bridge windows blown in and their
electronics damaged.”

Added Watson on April 3, “Some of the
sealing vessels are still in trouble. The Gulf
Venture was calling for Coast Guard assistance at
9 a.m. today, and pleading to be towed into a
Newfoundland port. The Polar Venture, stuck in
the ice for five days, “has not taken a single
seal,” Watson said. “The Brady Mariner, whose
crew viciously assaulted some of the Farley Mowat
crew on April 1, was broken down in the ice last
The Farley Mowat proved solidly
seaworthy, after having to “jump through
Canadian bureaucratic hoops” to prove
seaworthiness en route to the ice, Watson said.
Along the way, “the Farley Mowat was
diverted to Port Aux Basques, Newfound-land,
after a hull breach was discovered,” Watson
added. “First Officer Alex Cornelissen donned a
drysuit to dive into the cold water and located a
clean hole the size of a quarter beneath the main
engine. It is an unusual hole and was not made
by contact with ice. Alex was able to insert a
temporary plug into the hole and the flooding
The Farley Mowat was “in the middle of
the sealing fleet when the Canadian seal
slaughter officially opened,” Watson e-mailed,
“surrounded by 72 sealing vessels and shadowed by
the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Amundsen.”


The Farley Mowat “was able to document
numerous sealing violations on the ice by the
[sealers from the] sealing vessel Newfoundland
Leader,” Watson said. “At 8:30a.m., the Farley
Mowat moved close to the Newfoundland Leader when
the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Amundsen
approached at high speed, running down seals in
the ice. The icebreaker came straight toward the
starboard bow of the Farley Mowat on a collision
course. The Farley Mowat had to do a full
reverse to avoid the collision. The incident was
documented on numerous video cameras.”
At 1:30 that afternoon, 18 of the Farley
Mowat crew “crossed a mile of ice to witness and
document sealing activities by the Brady
Mariner,” Watson e-mailed. “Eight sealers came
toward them, armed with hak-a-pics [seal clubs],
and began to shout and swear at them. Lisa
Moises, 19, from Germany, was slapped in the
face and punched in the stomach by one burly
sealer. Another attacked photographer Ian
Robichaud with a hak-a-pik,, striking his camera
and hitting him in the side of the head. Adrian
Haley was struck in the face. Jonathan Batchlor
was punched in the mouth. Jonny Vasic was hit in
the side of the head with a club. Petite Lisa
Shalom of Montreal was struck by a sealer as she
took pictures of the assault on her crewmates.
When another sealer swung his hak-a-pik to strike
Jonny Vasic’s camera, surgeon Jerry Vlasak,
from Los Angeles, jumped in his way and took the
blow across the face.”
Watson said he called the Canadian Coast Guard
icebreaker Amundsen and asked the Royal Canadian
Mounted Police officers aboard to investigate.
“They did not reply,” Watson said.
“Instead, a helicopter was dispatched to arrest
the Sea Shepherd crew on the ice. Only seven
were able to return. They barely made it.”
The Amundsen split the ice to cut off the
11 others, who were charged with allegedly
approaching sealers without a permit. Kept
sitting on the deck of the Amundsen in handcuffs
for nine hours, according to Shalom, they were
taken to Charlottestown, Prince Edward Island.
Shalom, the only Canadian, was released.
Refusing to post bail of $1,000 each, and
threatening a hunger strike, the rest were held
until the following day.
Said Brady Mariner captain Rendell Genge,
of Anchor Point, Newfoundland, to Canadian
Press, “They interfered with my sealers. I
called (Fisheries officials) and told them I was
taking appropriate action to defend my men…I’m
the captain and I hit one guy with my fist to
defend myself. Four men came at me. I fell down
and when I got up, I was underneath. I just
gave him one punch. They had 15 to 20 men on the
ice and there were only eight of us.”
Responded Watson, “Unfortunately for
Captain Genge, the entire assault was fully
documented on two different video cameras.”
Watson said Sea Shepherd advisory board
member Bob Talbot flew to the Farley Mowat to
retrieve the video, in one of two helicopters
chartered by the Humane Society of the U.S., so
that “the evidence of the assault by the sealers
on our crew will not be captured, confiscated or
destroyed by the Can-adian Department of
Fisheries and Oceans.”
Watson said that sealers were also
“recorded making death threats, and threats of
rape to our female crew, and one rather bizarre
individual got his kicks from dropping his pants
and masturbating in front of the women. There
was plenty of mooning.”

Shooting incident

Gunfire erupted off the north coast of
Prince Edward Island on April 1, after three
helicopters carrying IFAW staff and news media
landed near the Cape Ashley, a fishing vessel
from Port aux Choix, Newfoundland.
“At first, about six sealers hurled
verbal abuse at about a dozen protesters and
observers,” Canadian Press reported. “The
protesters, who had observer permits that require
them to keep at least 10 metres from the sealers,
were then approached by at least one sealer who
was swinging a short stick with a hook, otherwise
known as a gaff. At one point, a snowmobile
carrying two sealers hurtled towards the
activists and swung away at the last moment. A
shoving match ensued, several shots were fired
from the boat, and the protesters retreated to
their choppers.”
Said Canadian Press photographer
Johnathan Hayward, “There were single shots
being fired when we first got there. Then there
was a burst of gunshots, like four or five. I
looked up and there was this gentleman walking
towards us with a rifle.”
Stating that the altercation was
videotaped by an Italian television crew, IFAW
gave essentially the same account of events,
additionally alleging that one of the Cape Ashley
crew members struck an IFAW representative with a
spiked seal club.

What next?

“The Farley Mowat was the last ship to
leave the ice,” Watson e-mailed on April 3.
“Sea Shepherd crew watched joyfully every time a
seal pup’s head rose from the water or scrambled
up on a chunk of ice.
“The Farley Mowat now has nowhere to go,”
Watson added. Until the Farley Mowat is
drydocked to permanently fix the hole in the
hull, Watson said, “We cannot go into a
Canadian port, nor can we return to the U.S.
Drydock costs could be well over $25,000,”
Watson estimated, after “The demands of the
Canadian government cost us an extra $35,000.”
Watson hoped to confront sealers on the
Labrador Front, where the killing was to start
on April 12, but admitted “We don’t have the
fuel, the provisions, or the crew to do that,
at this point. We need a minimum of 40 extra
tons of fuel for this stage of our campaign,”
Watson estimated. “One ton of fuel costs around
$500, so we need about $20,000 for fuel costs.
We need people with engineering and electronic
experience. We need another cook. We need film
makers and photographers. We need about $2,000
worth of food– vegetarian, of course.
“If support can be found,” Watson
pledged, “the Farley Mowat could make port in
Bermuda to take on fuel and provisions,” before
returning to the ice floes.
“The ice is thicker, the sea more
treacherous, the sealing ships more numerous,
the government more hostile, and the sealers
more brutal on the Front,” Watson added. “Not a
single protester has gone there since Sea
Shepherd in 1983.”


While the Canadian government defended
the seal hunt, as always, as an essential
source of income for out-of-work fishers, Green
Party of Canada environment critic Sharon Labchuk
pointed out that, “Cod stocks were depleted by
industrial fishing, which was encouraged by the
federal government, not by harp seals,” and
explained the extent to which sealing is
subsidized despite the official pretense that it
is not.
Explained a Green Party press release,
“The Canadian Institute for Business & the
Environment reports the federal government
provided more than $20 million in subsidies to
the sealing industry between 1995 and 2001, to
upgrade and construct seal processing plants,
promote the seal hunt in Europe and elsewhere,
develop new markets for seal products, and fund
the development of new seal products.”
Potentially the most lucrative new seal
product is a “lipid emulsion” dietary aid
developed by North Atlantic Biopharma, a firm
started in 2001 with $50,000 from the
Newfoundland trade ministry, plus help from the
Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, National
Research Council, Industry Canada, and the
Centre for Fisheries Innovation. “The Guangzeng
Pharmaceutical Group of China will invest $8
million to $10 million in the coming years to
complete clinical testing in exchange for
exclusive distribution rights,” reported Dene
Moore of Canadian Press.
“Lipid emulsions are provided to patients
with difficulty eating,” Moore wrote. “The
product currently available in North America is
vegetable-based. In Europe, both vegetable and
fish oils are used.”
North Atlantic Pharma researcher Lili
Wang projected that the product could be approved
for use within four years.
The sales potential is estimated at $160
million [Canadian] a year in China alone. If 10%
of the money returns to Canada in patent
royalties and payments to sealers for carcasses,
the new product could almost double the income
now generated by the seal hunt, officially $16.5
million [Canadian].
Buyers in Norway, Denmark, Poland,
China, and Italy are now paying up to $70
Canadian for seal pelts, technically an increase
from the prices of 10 years ago when the offshore
hunt was resumed after a decade-long suspension,
but about the same after taking into account
inflation and the sinking value of the Canadian
The number of licensed sealers is up from
about 10,000 in 1995 to more than 15,000 in 2005,
wrote Dene Moore.
The current sealing quota “is almost
three times as many as when the anti-seal-hunt
campaign was launched more than 35 years ago,”
pointed out Bob Hepburn of the Toronto Star.
“If anything, despite years of protests and
boycotts, the campaign against the hunt has been
a failure. About all it has accomplished is that
sealers have been banned since 1987 from killing
those cute little white seal pups whose adorable
faces were splashed on anti-seal-hunt posters
around the world. That’s because a boycott of
Canadian seafood by Americans and Europeans,
even if only partly successful, could be an
economic disaster for Canada. Such an outcome
isn’t what the activists want, though. They want
Ottawa–and all Canadians –to rethink this
entire issue.”
Seafood exports add $3.1 billion to the
Canadian economy. About 75% of the Canadian
seafood catch is exported. Top buyers include
the U.S. and Australia.
“We are joining in a specific boycott of
Canadian seafood, focused on snow crabs,” HSUS
vice-president for wildlife John Grandy announced
from Prince Edward Island.
HSUS spokesperson Pat Regan told Reuters
that the campaign would target restaurants
including the Red Lobster chain–whose parent
firm, Darden Restaurants Inc., has reportedly
retained a consulting firm called Sustainable
Resources International, headed by former HSUS
vice president for investigations David Wills,
Also now consulting for the National
Trappers Association, Wills in June 1999 pleaded
guilty to embezzling from HSUS between 1990 and
1995, when he was sued for sexual harassment by
two HSUS employees and was eventually fired. The
sexual harassment case was settled out of court.
The seafood boycott is not supported by
IFAW, in keeping with a posture of opposing the
seal hunt but encouraging efforts to improve the
Atlantic Canada economy.
Pointing out that “What fish go through
when they are killed is also quite disturbing,”
Friends of Animals opposed “the notion that the
public ought to use their capacity to eat marine
animals as a tactic to show their support for
Robert Ovetz, of, noted
that the Canadian seal hunt is one of many
“global resource warsÅ  raging from Canada to
Chile to Scotland to Taiwan,” in which
“small-scale subsistence fishers battle
governments and industrial fishing companies to
whom their traditional fishing rights have been
given away.”
In Atlantic Canada, however, anger
which in other nations might destabilize
governments is vented on the seal pups.

Print Friendly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.