Seal Defense 2008

Seal Defense Campaign 2008
Captain & Crew Blog

Check out the latest reports from Captain Paul Watson and the crew from onboard the Farley Mowat during the Seal Defense Campaign.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

by David Nickarz
On Board the Sea Shepherd ship Farley Mowat

The minister of fisheries is a liar.  He claims that we have endangered the lives of sealers by coming too close to them, breaking ice under their feet and turning our water cannons on them.  This is all a complete fabrication.  Not only is it a lie, but there is no evidence to back it up. 

On the other hand, we have video evidence of the coast guard ramming us, putting our lives in danger.  We have video evidence of seals being skinned alive and run down by the coast guard.  None of this irrefutable evidence will be used to lay any charges--the minister of fisheries wouldn't have it. 

The coast guard has ordered us to report to the nearest Canadian port to have our captain and first mate brought up on charges under the Seal Fisheries Act, and that if we don't he will order the coast guard to board our ship--putting our international crew in further danger. 

I think the bottom line is that the Minister is trying to deflect attention from the deaths of four sealers last week.  It is his department's criminal incompetence that killed those men while they slept. 

We are here to protect life, but we are being made out to be the villains.

The minster has also made some bizarre statements about our crew.  He has been quoted as saying "They've been very cute.  These people are smart.  They've been around.  They know the law." 

Allow me to retort;

Well, I don't know what to say.  I consider myself ruggedly handsome rather than cute, but that's the minister's discretion. 

I agree that we are smart.  Many of our crew have post-secondary degrees like electrical engineering.  We are also smart enough to know that killing hundreds of thousands of baby seals is far from a good idea.

Some of us have been around for some time.  One of our crew, Al Johnson, is in his seventies and is a veteran of several anti-sealing campaigns.  Many of us are experienced animal activists. 

Mr. Hearn also says that we know the law--yes, yes we do.
Well Mr. Hearn, your lies are ugly.  We did not ram the Des Grossielles, we didn't endanger anyone's lives with our ship and we never turned our water cannons on anyone.  Our water cannons don't even work. 

You’re not very smart to think that we are just going to allow you to take our ship.  You haven't been around long enough to know our resolve and you must be ignorant of the law to think that you can apply the law outside the limits of your own country. 

Friday, April 4, 2008

by David Nickarz
On Board the Sea Shepherd ship Farley Mowat

I was in the engine room working on a broken fan when Danny came down to tell me something.  "There's a guy with an axe on the dock threatening to cut our mooring lines," he said with a grin on his face. 

I came up on deck to a dozen angry men, a few of which who were shouting in French at us.  One of smaller guys was waving an axe around telling us to leave.  "You're not welcome here, get the f--k out," he said with a French accent. 

Axe-man also used the axe to enhance his physical stature by holding it between his legs as if it were his manhood. 

After a short while the crowd got bigger and bigger.  The local television station cameraman was on the dock and our ship's cameraman was filming the crowd. 

The local police showed up and shook hands with the man holding the axe.  They exchanged greetings and smiled.  From then on, I knew that the mob was the authority in St. Pierre.  

Our cameraman stepped on shore and was pushed back by the axe-man.  One of our crew stepped on shore to help him and the local police started shouting. 

"Get back on the ship!"

I guess they had to exert their authority by yelling at our crew.  This seemed to embolden the mob and axe-man began to lift one of our mooring lines.  His friends helped him and he moved on to the bow line and started hitting it with his axe.  I ran up on the fore deck and pulled the damaged line in, rather than have it get caught in our propeller. 

I yelled to the bridge to get the engines started. 

I also yelled to the police--who were being shoved aside by the angry mob.  "Some law and order you guys have here!"  The rest of the mooring lines were cut and our gangplank fell into the water. 

The rest of my morning was spent helping our chief engineer get the engines started.  We put them on-line knowing that they were not warm enough, but the alternative was to have our ship dashed upon the rocks.  It is likely that the engines have been damaged by starting them cold. 

After watching that sickening display I know that none of the mob will be charged for endangering our lives.  The local police had no control over this situation and will probably be drinking with the same men who attacked us at the local pub. 

The ugliness of that day will stay forever in my mind as my impression of St. Pierre.  The two days before were OK--the locals treated us well and we were warmly welcomed at a local pub on the first night we arrived.  After the fishermen destroyed all the cod St. Pierre has had to become more of a tourist destination.  This certainly will not be on my list of places to go on vacation. 

After weighing anchor near a beach we got a great look at the ruggedly beautiful coastline of St. Pierre and Miquelon islands.  Our deck crew repaired our mooring lines and we're ready to go help the seals again.

April 4, 2008

by Greg Hager
On Board the Sea Shepherd ship Farley Mowat

As a deck hand, my duties are to maintain the ship. Yesterday’s project was to repair the gangplank, it took us most of the day reinforcing the Galapagos wood, yet the final outcome was well worth the effort. Near the end of the day I was asked to cover a bridge watch 8am to 12pm. It would be an earlier morning for me, but I accepted.

My morning started at 7:50am, I relieved Simeon from his four to eight watch. All I have to do is make sure that no unauthorized persons board our docked ship, and that the morning lines hold the ship in place. It's seven after eight, several bags are carried to the dock. Paul Watson, “Jet” Johnson, and Laura wait for the taxi that will deliver them to the airport. While they wait, all of the crew flock to them exchanging last words and hugs before they leave. By eight-thirty the three were crammed into the cab, and not long after the cab disappeared into the harbors horizon. Eight-forty-seven two more cabs showed up, one of the drivers was laying on his horn, and the other ran up the plank. I intercepted him just inside and he asked in French if the captain was still going to the airport. I explained that Paul just left by another cab. He acknowledged and quickly ran back outside, then both taxis left.

Nine o'clock: to be prompt at the bridge watch, I skipped on breakfast and was starting to get a bit hungry. I saw Daniel head toward the helicopter deck for his morning cigarette. I went outside to the heli-deck to ask him if he'd mind watching the plank while I get a hot plate. During the conversation with Daniel, a local dragging an ax walks up and starts shouting in French to us. Daniel ran inside. When Alex saw the local he called for someone to notify the police. Quickly the numbers grew on the dock side, and the commotion woke most of the sleeping crew. Before long the Police showed up, and it was the sixteen of us on the ship vs. the forty sealers on the dock. The guy with the ax was now more hyped up, making obscene gestures and threatening us to leave St. Pierre. Snowballs with rock cores were thrown at us, and the mob started taunting us by reaching for the line as if to free us from the dock without the engines running yet. At this time two of the officers boarded the ship and went with Alex to the bridge and explained that our presence on the island is raising too much turmoil and that we should leave. Simeon walk down the gangplank with his video camera and the sealer with the ax ran for him, swinging the ax in one hand and  with his free hand pushing Simeon, nearly knocking him to the ground. When Simeon turn his back to the sealer to walk back up the gangplank, the ax wielding barbarian charged at him again through the police swinging. At the other end of the dock fishermen were tugging at the spring line and one man was holding up the ship’s bicycle over his head and slamming it to the ground. The snowballs didn't stop, and with the police distracted by the bicycle twirling, the ax wielder started hacking away at the stern line. He shortly got tired and traded the ax off to someone else to finish the line. Simeon made it back on the ship safely.

Alex returned outside and the officers not far behind. I'm not sure why they were so neutral, there's fishermen on the dock wielding weapons and throwing rocks but the police just walked off the ship through the crowd and stood back watching. Without the stern line the ship started to swing outward, pivoting on the bow against the dock. Three men lifted the gangplank over the dock edge and it came crashing through the water into the side of our ship. Too heavy to lift, Sky started to cut the gangplank free, and David was the only one at the stern pulling the heavy wet lines in before the propeller could suck them under and tangle. The rest of the crew gathered at the bow shouting to the closed ears of the angry mob. We got lucky with the wind conditions blowing us away from the rocks and out of the harbor and drift with cold engines and a finicky bow thruster. Running the engines prematurely, we induced engine trouble. We drifted for about two hours and dropped anchor just off the shores of the Miquelon islands to repair.

March 30, 2008

by Peter Hammarstedt (1st Officer)
On Board the Sea Shepherd ship Farley Mowat

It's been three years since I was grabbed by the nape of my neck, kicked behind the knee, and thrown to the ice by a Department of Fisheries and Oceans officer desperate to keep footage of the seal hunt from reaching the mass media. With my face firmly pressed against the cold hard ice, the government thug twisted one arm behind my back, bent my wrist at ninety degrees and thrust his knee into my back. I yelled out in pain. Between bursts of crude French vulgarity, he whispered into my ear, "I hope that this is hurting you enough you bastard" and answered my cries with another twist of my wrist.

Far beyond my line of sight, a crew of six baby killers walked back to their ship accompanied by officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Between bashing in the soft skulls of 3-4 week seal pups, they had assaulted five of our crew, broken the nose of another and deliberately targeted our property and person. They were free to go.

As I tuned out the raging Quebecois sitting on top of me, I tried to make sense of it all. Witnessing a seal being killed - pain compliance holds, fines and jail time. Mercilessly butchering defenseless seals and assaulting members of the international media community - pats on the back and seventy dollars per pelt. Through the corner of my eye, I saw one friend and shipmate hauled away in handcuffs. Just past him, another close friend was dragged by her feet into an awaiting Coast Guard helicopter. With the purest of intentions we had come to the ice floes of Canada to defend life and were being treated as criminals. Two of the most compassionate people that I knew were about to be put behind bars. Overnight, the whole world had gone crazy.

In Eastern Canada, right was wrong and wrong was right.

It was then that I saw her, somewhere between my two arrested friends, a grey and black-spotted seal stared at me with her big black eyes. She was ten meters away and seemingly oblivious to all of the chaos around her. Because of our intervention at least she was safe. At least the sealers were being escorted back to their ship; their day of sealing was prematurely over. Maybe we couldn't save the world, but we could save the whole world for this one animal. And nothing that the government thugs from Ottawa dished out was comparable to what this innocent creature would experience if there were nobody on the ice to protect her. She was my anchor in reality. At least something still made sense. Defending her was right. No fine, jail term or physical violence would convince me otherwise.

That was 2005. I still have nightmares from the seal hunt. I saw a white heaven of ice turned into a blood red sea overnight. But because of that one moment, there is no where else I'd rather be every March than on the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

March 30, 2008

by Captain Alex Cornelissen
On Board the Sea Shepherd ship Farley Mowat

As we approached Cabot Strait on the evening of the 29th I picked up a transmission from the Canadian coastguard. They were hailing one of the sealing vessels and gave their coordinates. I couldn't believe our luck, we normally have to look for the sealers and now we were given all the info we needed by the very people who have no trouble endangering our lives in protecting the vicious seal killers.

At daybreak we were in position and were able to spend a full day documenting the brutalities that take place every year on the ice floes of Eastern Canada. Just like 3 years ago I am deeply shocked and saddened by the crimes that are committed here. This year however I am also shocked at the incompetence of the Coastguard Icebreakers. I am used to maneuvering in tight spaces and expect anyone operating an icebreaker to have similar skills. But yet we were rammed twice today.

Being rammed by a vessel that is much larger and heavier than your own ship is a dangerous situation and I was very worried that my crew might end up in the freezing waters that surround us. Luckily the good old Farley Mowat has once again proven to be an excellent ship. We are ready for yet another day despite the damage inflicted upon us by the Canadian coastguard.

March 29, 2008

by Merryn Redenbach
On Board the Sea Shepherd ship Farley Mowat

Everyone on board was shocked today to hear the news that four Canadian sealers died last night when their boat got into trouble in the ice. Apparently the coast guard tried to help but the boat capsized and four people lost their lives.

The tragedy highlights what an extreme environment this is, and how vulnerable all of us are to the forces of nature; experienced sailors like the sealers in their wooden boats and us, a mainly volunteer crew, who have come to the ice in our 50 year old vessel.

It also forces us to reflect again on the tragic and unnecessary nature of the seal hunt.  In the 21st century how can it be justified to risk people's lives for an unspeakably cruel industry that requires continual goverment subsidy? There must be better ways to support a community than bailing out such an outdated, perilous practice.

Employment should be safe and meaningful. I can't pretend to understand the needs of Magdalen Islands and Newfoundland communities but I'm sure they could reel off a long list of projects in providing technical education, better roads, schools and hospitals etc etc that would provide work in a far safer and more honorable manner.

We will hold the sealer's families in our thoughts as we try to save the little harp seals.  We are here to do whatever we can to put an end to the pointless loss of life; both of some of the world's most beloved marine animals and of the fathers and sons of the Magdelen islands and Newfoundland.

March 27, 2008

by Captain Alex Cornelissen
On Board the Sea Shepherd ship Farley Mowat somewhere between Bermuda and the killing fields

It has been 3 years since I last witnessed the massacre of baby harp seals, the so-called seal "hunt". Not a day has gone by in which I haven't thought of the horrific, senseless and brutal killing that takes place on the pristine white ice floes in Northeastern Canada. Not a day has gone by in which I haven't re-lived the overwhelming sadness that comes over you when witnessing these atrocities. Not a day has gone by in which I haven't remembered the violent crimes committed against these defenseless creatures. Not a day has gone by in which I haven't thought about the blind hatred we received from the sealers. And not a day has gone by in which I haven't forgotten how the Canadian government has been trying to cover up the horrors that take place on the ice.

This year will be essential with the European union close to putting a ban on the import of Canadian seal products. Europe will ban it because it is ever so clear that the Canadian seal hunt is not sustainable nor humane. Canadian politicians have been lobbying and Canada has spent millions of dollars trying to convince the Europeans that their hunt is well organized. It is however very clear that there is only one thing organized about the seal hunt and that is the Canadian government's inability to control it.

The seal hunt is nothing but bloodsport and regulations have for decades been ignored. The new regulation to cut the seal's main artery before being skinned is a joke. There have already been regulations in effect to prevent seals from being skinned alive, but nobody is enforcing them, why would this year be any different. Sure there are inspectors on the ice but they are too busy keeping the cameras away from the killing fields. They are too busy trying to arrest the people that risk life and freedom to protect these defenseless creatures. They are too busy looking the other way when the sealers kick the seals in the face. They are too busy keeping the lie alive.

There is no need for this hunt and there is definitely no place for it in the 21st century. If the Canadian government would spend the money they spend subsidizing this hunt directly on the sealers, everybody would be better off. The Canadian government would save the embarrassment they have to deal with every year. The sealers could find jobs that are respectable. The Canadian coastguard's ice breakers could keep the shipping going instead of having to watch over the sealers who are in places where their vessels wouldn't get without the ice breakers. The crew on the Farley Mowat could spend their energy on one of the many other problems our worlds' oceans face. But most importantly the baby harp seals could start their lives in peace and the ice could remain blood free.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

by David Nickarz
On Board the Sea Shepherd ship Farley Mowat

Three days out of Bermuda and the weather has suddenly turned cold.  We saw some rough weather the second night out. 

Much of the crew, including myself have battled sea sickness.  Being sea sick makes you question everything about being a sailor.  You just want to go sit under a tree somewhere and never go to sea again.  I'm happy to report that I'm all better now, and ready to hit the ice. 

I've been both looking forward to this campaign and fearing it.  I'm honoured to be part of a crew that is going to oppose one of the most heinous slaughters in the world.  The proposed European ban on seal products has the potential to put a real economic dent in the sealing industry's profits.  It's all very encouraging. 

I've also been to the seal hunt before on this same ship in 2005.  I've seen cowards hook a live seal and drag it across the ice.  Our ship would pass by heaps of skinless seal corpses that stained the ice a bright red.  The crew met some seals the day before the hunt, and in that moment of wonder we put out of our mind the fact that those same seals would likely be slaughtered in the next few days.  It's the kind of thing you put away until later--the kind of thing that wakes you up in the middle of the night months later. 

I've stopped trying to understand why people would do such an awful thing to helpless animals.  Now, I only want it to stop.

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

We will soon be hitting the ice in a very real way.  Our sturdy hull will be cutting through the ice of the gulf of St. Lawrence to the seal nursery.

The crew was informed today of the Canadian government's decree that we are not allowed within the 200 mile limit of Canada's shores. Our captain has argued that we only have to abide by the 12 mile limit, which would allow us to enter the Cabot straight without entering Canadian territorial waters.

It's pretty obvious that the government has something to hide--namely the grotesque slaughter that they call a "seal fishery".  (Since when are seals fish, anyway?)  The slaughter of hundreds of thousands of baby harp seals is a cowardly act that will be exposed to the world.

I wonder what sort of training goes into hitting immobile seal pups on the head with a large stick?  I would guess that you have to desensitize yourself enough to ignore the cries of the baby harp seal.  You have to tell yourself that you are a "big man" when you slaughter innocent beings that have yet to be able to move on their own--they are so young.

I could spend my entire life asking "why", but I have better things to do with my time.

The government of Canada and the sealers are simply ashamed of what they are doing, and they will try their best to stop us from showing it to the world.  Their best won't be good enough.

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