When it comes to strategy, Canadian Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Loyola Hearn needs to learn a thing or two. Perhaps he should be consulting with the Minister of External Affairs to get briefed on diplomacy. He has decided to charge the Captain and 1st Officer of the Farley Mowat with the horrible "crime" of approaching too close to a seal slaughter without permission of the Minister.
The problem for Hearn is that the Farley Mowat is a Dutch registered yacht not engaged in economic activity navigating with the right of free passage as allowed by International Maritime law in waters beyond 12 miles of Canada.
The Captain is Dutch.
The First Officer is Swedish.
Other crewmembers are British, French, South African, and American.
And this is happening just as the European Parliament is considering a ban on all seal products, a move that will surely cripple Canada's nefarious sealing industry. The government has delegations of lobbyists in Europe trying to convince the Europeans that the Canadian slaughter of seals is humane.
The crew of the Farley Mowat have already released video images of a seal being skinned alive and other cruelties that have demonstrated that the slaughter is far from humane. If the Canadian government forcefully boards a Dutch registered ship in international waters that will not be looked on very kindly in Europe. If they actually arrest two Europeans for the "crime" of documenting a seal being skinned alive, that will not play very well in Amsterdam, Stockholm or London or Paris.
What better way is there to bring the reality of the seal slaughter before the European Parliament then to have the government of Canada bully their way onto a European ship to arrest Europeans for being compassionate over the seals? Of course Hearn has already demonstrated his lack of diplomatic experience when he scolded the Europeans for not being grateful for the liberation of the Netherlands by Canadian soldiers in the Second World War.
Farley Mowat, the international chair of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society took exception to that statement.
"I was there in Europe as part of that army of liberation. Hearn was not. How dare he use us to justify this slaughter? Millions of Canadians oppose this seal hunt and as one of those men who fought to liberate Europe, I applaud the European Parliament for their concern for this disgraceful massacre of seals."
If Captain Alex Cornelissen or 1st Officer Peter Hammarstedt are arrested and brought to jail in Canada for documenting the seal slaughter, they will be seen as political prisoners in Europe. There will be protests before Canadian embassies and Consulates. European Parliamentarians will receive petitions and letters and this will serve to elevate this issue even further in the minds of all Europeans.
The Farley Mowat is presently navigating in international waters with the intent to document atrocities by Canadian sealers. Loyola Hearn has vowed to stop them and has threatened to board the Farley Mowat and arrest the crew. Does the Canadian Coast Guard have the training and the experience to conduct a dangerous boarding at sea? What will be the European reaction to this assault and especially if any of the Farley Mowat's crew are hurt or worse?
"I cannot allow the Coast Guard to place my ship under tow," said Captain Cornelissen. "They have demonstrated that they can not competently tow a ship and have admitted they don't have any guidelines for towing a ship through the ice. I have no intention of putting my crew in the same dangerous situation that the unfortunate sealers from the Magdalen Islands were placed in. If they cannot protect their own they certainly can't be depended upon to protect our lives."