Captain Watson Corrects Attorney Averill Baker's Knowledge of Sealing

Commentary by Captain Paul Watson
Founder and President of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Perhaps Averill Baker's experience in practicing law in St. John's allows her to submit inaccurate evidence on behalf of her defendants. This shoddy disregard for the facts does not fly well off "the rock."

Attorney Averill Baker's editorial in The Express contains a great deal of inaccurate and misleading information and does not do her credit as a lawyer.

Baker suggests that the whitecoat and blueback pelts come from Europe, Asia, and the United States.

She is wrong on two counts. Whitecoat and blueback pelts do come from Norway. None of these pelts are obtained from the United States or Asia. Norway does have a whitecoat hunt. Norway also has hundreds of thousands of whitecoat pelts from Canada in the Reiber Company warehouse in Bergen, Norway. Russia does kill baby Caspian Sea seals, not harp seals or hood seals.

Greenland sealers do not kill whitecoats or bluebacks. In fact, they don't hunt baby seals at all, and recently Greenland banned Canadian seal pelts because they did not want their seal products to be associated with the mass slaughter of baby harp seals in Canada.

It is not legal to sell seal products in the United States except from a very small number of seals taken by Aleut and Inuit sealers in Alaska. The commercial trade in seal products is banned by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. None of the seals killed by aboriginal hunters in U.S. territory is a baby seal. They are adult male Pribilof fur seals. None are harp or hood seals - these species are not found in Alaska.

Baker, by the way, describes it as the Marine Mammal Protection regulations of Alaska. This is inaccurate. It is a Federal Act. It is designed to protect seals from harassment and it does indeed prevent people coming closer than 100 feet of a seal. However, there is no exemption for sealers because there are no commercial sealers in the United States. Permits can be obtained for closer observation.

Baker states that it is illegal to film the seal hunts in Europe and the United States. She is right about the Norwegian hunt, but she is wrong about the U.S. aboriginal hunts. I have had a crew in the Aleutians documenting the hunt of adult Pribilof fur seals. We did not require a permit.

Baker laments that seal defenders are picking on Newfoundland alone. This is not the case. Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has been involved in opposing sealing in the Caspian sea by the Russians (which was documented without anyone being arrested), in Namibia (which is documented annually without anyone being arrested), in Norway (where Odd Lindberg was arrested for documenting the seal slaughter), and in Great Britain (where Sea Shepherd documented and shut down hunts at the Farne Isles, the Orkneys, and the Irish Sea).

Newfoundland is not being singled out although the Canadian slaughter receives the most attention because of the massive quotas and because it is the most brutal of the world's seal hunts.

Canada has restrictive laws that do not allow documentation of the killing of seals without a permit which is difficult and expensive to obtain. My crew and I have been arrested numerous times for documenting the killing of seals.

Cameras get into abattoirs all the time and documentation of cruelty in slaughter houses is quite routine. Cameras have recorded hundreds of cases of cruelty to seals on the ice without any consequences to the sealers whereas documentation in slaughter houses usually results in penalties.

Sea Shepherd opposes the slaughter of seals in Canada because it is ecologically unsound, it is cruel, and it is a wasteful. There are alternatives. The international protests against the slaughter of seals in Canada are not going away. On the contrary, the movement is gaining momentum and is growing stronger.

2006 has been the best year yet for motivating international outrage against the slaughter of seals and we predict that 2007 will be even more controversial. Pride is a factor in the continued support of the hunt in Canada but pride has a price. Governments will ultimately listen to economics and the cost of supporting the seal slaughter will soon grow prohibitively expensive.

Already a welfare project, the slaughter promises to be the most expensive welfare scheme in the world.

It will be abolished.

Captain Paul Watson is the Founder and President of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Column by Avril Baker in The ExpressAverill Baker
The Express


They are the rage in Europe, but the question is where do they get them? We see them on TV - white and blue sealskin coats - on the catwalks of Europe and the runways of New York. They are on the news every night - those fancy fashion models - wearing white and blue sealskin coats, slinking down the runways, one leg directly in front of the other, like a fox tracking a rabbit. While they strut across the stage, the news announcer in the background quotes the most recent aged celebrity who claims we Newfoundlanders are barbarians. As we all know in this province, we are not allowed to sell the skin of a whitecoat or blueback seal. It is a criminal offence to do that. Ottawa made sure, about seven years ago, that we ordinary Newfoundlanders and Labradorians would not forget the law when they ordered enforcement officers to raid the homes, business premises, and trucks of all buyers of sealskins in this province. The officers seized all records of the buyers and any blueback sealskins they found. Every person who sold bluebacks in this province was charged with a criminal offence. I know all about it because I am still in court representing some of the sealers in ongoing cases at several communities on the Northeast coast. Over and over we see the whitecoat and blueback clothing on CBC, CTV, CNN and other networks, while they talk about us, shamelessly suggesting something that we know is a big fat fib. The truth is, those beautiful whitecoat and blueback sealskins come from Europe, Asia and the United States, where it is legal to sell whitecoats and bluebacks. In these other countries, the law states every seal can be killed and the pelts sold as long as the seal is weaned from its mother. This means they can be taken about 10 to 12 days after birth. A blueback can remain a blueback for a couple of years. So, these European and U.S. protesters who are objecting to the killing and selling of whitecoats and bluebacks should stay home and protest in their own front yard. But they come to our province, where it is illegal to do the very thing they are protesting against, and where the penalties are so severe for breaking this law nobody does it! Of course the real reason why the protesters are here is because Canada is the only nation that allows them to get close to a seal, let alone a seal hunt. The law in the United States is called The Marine Mammals Regulations of Alaska. That law says that no person, other than a sealer, can come to within 100 yards of a seal. A film crew in an airplane cannot come to within 1,500 feet of one. There is also no provision in U.S. law to allow a protester to be given a license to do what the aged celebrities are allowed to do on our coast. Norway, renowned for a very high standard of living, directly subsidizes the seal hunt with cash paid for each pelt. Norway even issues hunting licenses to tourists to kill seals if they want, but Norway does not allow protesters to approach a seal or be in the area of the hunt. The UK law respecting seals even allows fishermen to kill all seals that approach fishing gear or salmon rivers. Greenland has an unlimited quota to kill seals. They estimate they killed in excess of 150,000 pup seals last year.

Norway and Russia recorded 177,000 kills and they count their seals differently. They encourage sealers to kill whitecoats and bluebacks in their first year of life because of their high incidence of natural mortality. Their quotas are set so three seal pups are counted as two adult seals. While Canada is the only place in the world where television cameras are welcome to witness and film, on site, the killing of seals, you might have thought there was hope for change with Newfoundland's own newly-appointed federal Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn in charge. Last week the minister claimed it is probably better to licence the protestors to come and film the hunt and show the world it is well-regulated and humane. Perhaps it is too obvious to point out to the minister that cameras aren't allowed in abattoirs (nor should they be), and they shouldn't be allowed on the pristine white ice fields. The abattoirs are closely regulated and inspected, and so are the ice-fields.

Averill Baker practises law in St. John's.