Canada Violates French Territorial Waters to Spy on Sea Shepherd

This morning, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's ship, the Farley Mowat, was overflown six times by an aircraft bearing the marks of the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).

The Farley Mowat and her crew were anchored off the French island of Miquelon. This meant that the Canadian aircraft had entered French airspace to spy on Sea Shepherd.

Yesterday, the Farley Mowat had to leave the dock at the French island of St. Pierre after angry French and Newfoundland fishermen attacked the ship and cut the mooring lines with axes, setting the ship adrift in the harbor without power.

Captain Alex Cornelissen and Chief Engineer Willie Houtman acted quickly and started up the engines just before the ship would have struck some rocks. Starting up the engines cold caused damage to the machinery, which is presently being repaired by the ships engineers as the ship sits at anchor.

Animal Planet cameraman Simeon Houtman was assaulted on the dock by a fisherman with an axe as French police looked on and did not intervene. The axeman narrowly missed Houtman, who fell backwards to escape the attack.

Dozens of fishermen attacked the Sea Shepherd ship in support of the sealers. One French fishermen yelled that the seals were rats and should be exterminated. The French fishermen, like their Newfoundland counterparts, were impacted by the collapse of the cod fishery in 1992, which wiped out the once thriving economic base of these French owned islands.

"What they refuse to admit," said Captain Paul Watson, Founder and President of Sea Shepherd, "is that the cod were wiped out by the gross incompetence of the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the same incompetence that recently killed four sealers. There were once forty million seals on the East coast, and now, with seals reduced to 10% of their original numbers, it is obvious that it is not the seals that killed off the fish. The fishing industry collapsed because of greed and mis-management."

The Canadian government's policy is to blame the seals and to focus hatred on seal defenders as a way of detracting from its own incompetence.

The crew of the Farley Mowat will be returning to the ice in a few days, when the slaughter resumes, to once again document the brutality of the sealers.

Today, the Magdalen Islanders are burying three of the four sealers who drowned last week. Yesterday evening, Captain Watson was asked on Atlantic television if he was ready to apologize for stating that the slaughter of 325,000 seals is a greater tragedy than the loss of the four men. Captain Watson said, "I apologize for being a Canadian and being associated with the most sadistic and barbaric industry on the face of the planet."

Sea Shepherd believes that the deaths of the men is a tragedy and that there should be a full investigation into the circumstance that cause their death.

"It should not be difficult to determine the cause," said Captain Watson. "The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans authorized hundreds of small wooden and aluminum hulled non-ice class vessels to venture forth into extremely dangerous ice conditions. He placed men on the ice to butcher seals without providing adequate Coast Guard protection. The Coast Guard towed a vessel through the ice at excessive speed and without proper precautions. This was not an accident. This was manslaughter, and Loyola Hearn is the man responsible for their deaths although he will try and use Sea Shepherd as a scapegoat with his attempts to demonize us as extremists. When did documenting the cruelty against the seal pups become an extremist act?"

Hearn has told the Canadian media that Sea Shepherd will be charged for documenting the cruelty on the ice. He was not specific on what charges have been laid, and he has not informed Sea Shepherd or the crew of the Farley Mowat that charges have been laid.

Sea Shepherd's position is that it has done nothing illegal. The vessel has never entered Canadian waters and has the right of free passage under international maritime laws.

"If the Canadian Coast Guard attempts to board the Farley Mowat, a Dutch ship in international waters," said Dutch Captain Cornelissen, "I will consider that an act of war."