Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Canada's shameful seal hunt and the forthcoming EU ban

Those of you following this year's Canadian seal hunt are already aware that the anti-sealing Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's ship the Farley Mowat was recently seized and boarded at gunpoint by Canadian authorities. Bail was later posted by the ship's namesake, Canadian author Farley Mowat. The dispute now seems to be over whether Canadian authorities acted illegally by seizing the Dutch-registered ship and its international crew in what Paul Watson, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society head (who, incidentally, hails from New Brunswick), asserts were international waters. Since authorities have seized the ship's contents, including its GPS system and computers, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society now doesn't have the means to prove where the ship was seized.

According to a Canadian Press piece on the seizure:

Captain Alexander Cornelissen, who hails from the Netherlands, and first officer Peter Hammarstedt are accused of steering the Farley Mowat to within 900 metres of the hunt. That's an offence under federal regulations unless an observer's permit has been granted. The Mowat does not have one.

Both Mowat and Watson said the seizure and arrests were illegal since the Farley Mowat is a Dutch-registered vessel and it was outside of Canada's 12-mile territorial limit.

On Monday, Hearn said the ship was seized within that zo
ne, but the staff later said the minister misspoke.

Two Maritime law experts said Monday that Canada was within its right to arrest the ship and its crew if they were indeed violating seal hunt regulations.

"Canada has jurisdiction over fish and marine mammals out to 200 nautical miles," said Ted McDorman, a law professor at the University of Victoria. "So for purposes of marine mammal management, the waters out to 200 nautical miles are Canadian waters."

Without an observer's permit granted by the Minister of Fisheries, according to the Sea Shepherd Society, it's illegal in Canada to film, photograph or even witness a seal being killed. The Canadian government, under the guise of safety concerns, has basically legislated a cover-up of what actually occurs during the seal hunt. And according to recent news reports, if Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Wilson had his way, nobody would be allowed to observe the hunt at all. Wilson recently called Paul Watson a ''terrorist''; that seems to be the automatic ''go to'' place these days for anyone wanting to condemn the words or actions of environmental or animal activists.

According to Paul Watson, the ship was boarded by the authorities to avoid the embarrassment of having the footage taken by the Farley Mowat's crew shown to the rest of the world. The issue is indeed a sensitive one for the Canadian government right now, especially with the recent announcement following informal meetings of the EU environment ministers a few days ago that the EU environment chief is preparing to propose a ban on seal products coming from countries who cannot prove the seals were slaughtered in a humane way.

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