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"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"
From the Daily Moblog of Paul Watson Captain of the Farley Mowat
Captain Paul Watson, Director of the Sea Shepard Conservancy, and his volunteer crew aboard the Farley Mowat have finally sailed out of the ice fields in the Gulf of St. Lawrence after bearing witness to the Canadian seal pup slaughter there.
Sealers were permitted to kill 90,000 seals this year . While Captain Watson estimates that the actual kill this year was far below the quota, the Associated Press reports, "The total allowable catch remaining for 2005 is nearly 320,000" The 3-year harvest which ends this spring allowed the killing of nearly one million seals.
This year’s hunt had the feel of a circus gone out of control. Sealers clubs and fists flew. Shots were fired into the air in an attempt to intimidate activists. High-powered rifles were aimed at activists. Attempts were made by sealer’s vessels to ram the Farley Mowat. Due to the fallout from a fierce, spring storm that raged during the slaughter, several of the 100 sealer’s ships were damaged and sank, limiting their ability to kill baby seals.
The deviant behavior seemed to have no bounds. "On board the L.J. Kennedy was one rather strange lad who thought it was funny to drop his pants and underwear and masturbate as he made rude remarks to our female crewmembers. The crew of the Farley Mowat filmed the entire procession of boats, gestures, name-calling, and bizarre public masturbation displays," according to Captain Watson.
Hunters did not confine their use of the hak-a-piks to baby seals between 3 and 6 weeks of age, according to the daily accounts published by Captain Watson. Sealers turned their brutal weapons upon the human volunteers who were there to document the slaughter.
On March 31, 2005, Captain Watson reported that the Farley Mowat was under attack. Sealers from the Brady Mariner approached activists who were taking pictures of the killing fields. The sealers became violent and attacked the activists.
"Nineteen year old Lisa Moises 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-piks striking his camera and hitting him in the side of the head. Adrian Haley was struck in the face. Jonathan Bachlor 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 a hak-a-pik to strike Jonny Vasic’s camera, Dr. Jerry Vlasik (a surgeon for Los Angelos) stepped in his way and took the blow across the face," according to Watson’s moblog.
When Captain Watson called the Coast Guard and asked them to investigate the assault, they did not reply. Instead a helicopter was dispatched to arrest the activists. Eleven activists from 5 different nations were arrested by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police after 8 sealers assaulted 7 crewmembers. The activists were charged with approaching sealers without a permit and eventually released after refusing to post bail and vowing to refuse food if kept under confinement.
Farley Mowat crewmembers filed charges of assault, battery and assault with a deadly weapon, with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. One such assault on activists by sealer Rendell Genge, Captain of the Brady Mariner was caught on two different video cameras, according to Watson. A film crew for the International Fund for Animal Welfare was assaulted by another sealer.
The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans maintains that their hunt is humane and kills only adult seals. The crew of the Farley Mowat and activists from the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Humane Society of the United States have photographic evidence to the contrary. Captain Watson estimates that 95% of the seals killed are less than 4 weeks old. The international movement to boycott Canadian fish is gaining momentum as seafood distributors, restaurants and individuals are signing on to the Canadian Fish Boycott as a way to protest the cruelty and environmental devastation wreaked by the seal pup slaughter.
KARYN STRICKLER is a writer and political activist. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.