What the Phoque?

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

The Maggie Island sealers went seal killing this year and all they got was a T-shirt with my name on it. In fact they've made more money selling anti Paul Watson shirts than they made from bashing seal pups and that's okay by me.

There is no greater honour than acknowledgement from one's enemies and I'm pleased to be able to provide some alternative employment.

Today I received a package in the mail from the Canadian Magdalen Island. There was no return name and address but inside there were 2321 signatures saying "Phoque you Paul Watson." They also enclosed a Phoque You Paul Watson T - Shirt.

Just the other day I was asking how I could get one of these neat and quaint T-shirts but thought that getting on a plane and flying to Grindstone also known as Cap-aux Meules in the Ille de Madelaine in the Gulf of St. Lawrence was a tad bit expensive just to buy a shirt. But ask and ye shall receive and the sealers thoughtfully decided to send me one, and they even paid $8.50 postage to have Canada Post deliver it to my doorstep.

Captain Paul Watson proudly models one of the "Phoque You
Paul Watson shirts" sent by the Sealbillies of the Maganderthal Islands

That was very thoughtful, and to all you knuckle dragging baby seal serial killers from the Magaderthal Isles - a very appreciative merci beaucoup. From what I hear the sealers think that this is a pretty wonderful play on words. As one sealer told Canadian Press, "ya know da French word for seal is "phoque" so we are saying "phoque you Paul Watson." Get it?"

Well Pierre, we'll try. It does require a fair understanding of associative grammar I know, but us dumb school asses outside of sealbilly land think we can grasp what you're trying to say. It reminds me of when I asked my grade ten French teacher how to say "seal" in French. She replied, "Get down to the principal's office right now young man."

That little venture into comparative linguistic comedy netted me three detentions. But what does it mean really? I know what they want everyone to think it means.  But it really is open to interpretation.

Translated literally it means "seal you Paul Watson."  I like that. Seals R us or as Grasshopper's wise instructor would say, "be one with the seal Paul."

As for what they mean it to say, well, quite frankly, I'm flattered. Getting 2321 sealbillies to take the time to send a collective "phoque you" on paper took initiative, and it took time and I can only assume that they had the time and they were able to sign, because we chased them off the ice floes.

With the clubs silenced they took up silk screening instead.

The last time I was in the Magdalen Islands back in 1995, the sealers all got drunk and mustered up the courage to attack my crew and I in our hotel in the town of Grindstone. Actor Martin Sheen was with me along with a few dozen reporters when 300 proud sons of the Maggies burst in and began trashing the Auberge Madeli Inn. I could hear the low nasal snarl of the local French patois punctuated with bastardized English obscenities in the hallway as they searched for my room. I could smell the cheap stale tobacco, the rank body odour and spilt beer as the stench of the mob seeped under the door moments before they smashed it in with an axe and stormed in like a bunch of deranged goons.

"Ou is dis fokking Watson? Where is dis fokking seal loving peece of shit?"

The two cops in the room with me gallantly stepped aside to let the bastards pass and suddenly I found myself facing thirty of them in a semi-circle with my back against the wall. Outside there were about three hundred more of these baby killing moronic cowards.

I felt then and there that I was a dead man and that it was my final hour. I had no intention of giving them the satisfaction of showing any fear. My hand reached into my pocket and I readied my stun gun. Suddenly one of them, a big ugly bastard named Langford, stepped forward and swung a blow connecting with the left side of my head. I pulled the stun gun out, and the brute crashed to the floor, eyes wide open in surprise. A second sealer rushed in and crashed to the floor at my feet.

The rest of them looked confused. I knocked a third one to his knees with the stun gun.

Langford struggled to his feet. "The fokking anglais son of a bitch burned me," he roared.

They surged forward, slamming me back against the window. The glass shattered, the curtains were pulled down. The blows kept coming as I defended myself as best I could until a dozen cops rushed in and began beating back the mob with their nightsticks. One of them spat in my face and I spat back and kneed him in the groin as I felt one of my ribs crack.

I barely escaped with my life that day so it should not be surprising that I hold little respect or sympathy for the cowards that assaulted me. One on one or even ten baby killers on one is fair but 300 on one is a trifle on the bullying side, but then, what else can one expect from men who get their kicks from bashing in the skulls of seal pups?

Martin Sheen, my crew and I, had gone to the Magdalen Islands to present an alternative to killing seals. We had found a company in Germany that would buy naturally molted seal hairs. These transparent hollow follicles have the same characteristics as eider feathers and it could be an industry that could provide a product from an animal without the need to injure or kill the seals. In other words a cruelty free, non-lethal form of sealing. We had already discovered that the seals actually enjoyed the brushing off of their molted hairs. We had come to the islands to employ sealers and not to oppose them.

The sealers responded by having a meeting, getting drunk and then attacking our hotel and assaulting us. Their ringleader said that they wanted nothing to do "with a faggoty idea like brushing seals. Seal were meant to be clubbed not coddled."

One sealer said that it was not just about the money. "It's our one opportunity every year to get away from the old lady and the kids, have some beers with the boys and kill seals. It's our way of life and we loves it."

Yep, nice guys.

And this year they went out and four of themselves got themselves killed while in the process of inflicting gross cruelty and mass seal slaughter and then expected sympathy.

The little sled ride behind a powerful Coast Guard ice-breaker had the little sealing boat banged and bumped and capsizing as six of the baby killers got tossed into the frozen sea. Only two survived. The Coast Guard were apparently having coffee at the time and did not notice. Yes sir, they were standing on guard for thee that day for sure.

However being used to government incompetence, the sealers did not seem very angry with the Coast Guard. They decided to vent their frustrations on yours truly. Not that I minded. Having sealers and whalers hate me is after all my job, and I measure success by the intensity of their anger. It appears we were very successful this year.

Apparently I enraged the islanders when I said that although the deaths of the four seal killers was a tragedy caused by the incompetence of the Canadian Coast Guard, it was my opinion that the slaughter of 325,000 seal pups was a greater tragedy. And for that reason they designed and printed a T-shirt specifically telling me to "phoque off."

It is a shirt that I will proudly wear.

I am happy that I was able to enrage them. I am happy that the seal slaughter this year was a dismal failure for the islanders because I am happy for all the seal pups they did not murder. And that's what this shirt means to me. It is a sign of their defeat.

We are on the threshold of the passing of a bill by the European Parliament to ban all seal products. These products are already banned in the United States. In the last two years seal pelt prices have plummeted, down from $105 per pelt to $32 a pelt.

The slaughter has survived because of massive government subsidies. The seal "hunt" as they call it is nothing more than a glorified welfare program and the sealers are little more than uneducated bums unwilling to train for real jobs in the 21st century.

I guess they could go into the T-shirt business, but judging by the poor design and cheap quality of the shirt they sent me, there is a need for some quality control and some artistic skill if they are to make a go of it. Plus they may have to negotiate some rights issues with me for permission to use my name but I think I'll only charge a nominal fee.

So if anyone is visiting the province of Quebec and the sealbillies on the Maggies this year you can help their economy by buying one of the Phoque You Paul Watson shirts. Perhaps they can put the shirts online and take orders.

How many Phoque You Paul Watson Tee shirts would they need to sell to bring in the amount of money they would make from killing seals?

The Magdalen Island share of the overall seal quota was 15,000. At $32 per pelt that would bring in about $500,000 but after costs are factored in like fuel and vessel operations that amount is cut in half to about $250,000.

Of course the government subsidies and icebreaker services surpassed a million dollars for the Magdalens alone this year and the search for the missing sealer cost another three million but hey never mind, that's taxpayer money from people with real jobs.

But considering they did not take even half their quota this year, the profit for the sealers was about $100 each if they were lucky. They did not even make enough money to cover the funeral costs for the lost sealers although they did drape the coffins in seal pelts which seemed quaintly primitive.

Two hundred thousand Phoque You Paul Watson T shirts at $25 could bring in $500,000 without fuel costs or being a burden to the tax-payer.

However with a Canadian government economic incentive grant of say a million dollars, they could easily create markets for the sale of 200,000 shirts. This way the tax-payer would be out a mere half a million dollars, a far lower figure than the current subsidy for the killing of seals.

It would not be much different than the economics of the seal slaughter as it is now. You can sell anything with government incentive and marketing grants. So I think that the economic solution for the Magdalens is to replace sealing with silk screening.

After all that's a catchy little phrase. They need to copyright it. "Phoque You Paul Watson" shirts could really put the Maggies and the sealbillies on the map. Of course they will need to print the design on some wife beater shirts. I understand that next to sealing, that wife beating is the other big recreational activity on the islands closely followed by beer drinking, barroom brawling, tobacco rolling and listening to Celine Dion.

As for me, I'm happy to be of service for sealers in need of alternative employment.

Phoque You Paul Watson! I love it. - Way to go you sealbillies! Phoque you very much.

And I have some more ideas for them. Why not make a series of Phoque You Paul Watson shirts?

Like "Paul Watson is Phoquing Awesome" or "I Phoqued Paul Watson" or "Paul Watson, Go Phoque Yourself" or "Paul Watson Phoqued us Over Real Good."

And they could start a completely different line like "Sealbillies Against Faggoty Employment" or "Take your brush and Phoque it!"