Canadian Government Irresponsibility Kills Four Sealers

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has previously warned the Canadian government that it was irresponsibly allowing wooden hulled non-ice-class vessels to participate in the seal slaughter. Last year, many of these vessels were damaged, and a few were crushed in the ice and lost.

This year, the Canadian government's irresponsibility has resulted in a major tragedy.

Last night, four Magadalen Island sealers died when their 12 metre sealing boat capsized while being towed by a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker.

The boat had lost steerage about 40 miles North of Cape Breton Island. The Canadian Coast Guard responded to its distress signal and placed the vessel under tow.

Captain Paul Watson, Founder and President of Sea Shepherd and a former member of the Canadian Coast Guard, said, I find it incredible that the Coast Guard would place a small boat like that in tow behind a powerful icebreaker in such heavy ice conditions without first taking the crew onboard. They deliberately placed those men in an unsafe situation, and there should be a full inquiry into the circumstances that have led to the deaths of these four men.

Yesterday, over 100 sealers headed out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence from the Magdalen Islands on 16 small boats. In addition to the one that has already sunk, three other sealing vessels are in trouble in the waters off Cape Breton, with two of them taking on water and the third broken down with mechanical problems.

In his efforts to further his own political ambitions, Loyola Hearn is sending these sealers into treacherous ice conditions in unsafe vessels, and the Canadian government has demonstrated that they do not have the resources to come to their rescue efficiently, said Captain Watson. It appears that the government is more concerned about keeping Sea Shepherd from documenting the slaughter of seals than they are about protecting the lives of Canadian fishermen.

Sea Shepherd's ship, the Farley Mowat, is working its way through the ice of the Gulf of St. Lawrence towards the area where the seals are being killed. This will bring Sea Shepherd into contact with the sealing vessels caught in the ice.

We will of course rescue any sealers should they require help, said Captain Watson. Unlike the sealers and the government of Canada, the Sea Shepherd crew is motivated by both mercy and compassion and a respect for all life including the lives of those who inflict pain, suffering, and death upon the most innocent of animals the seal pups.

At the same time that the search for the bodies was taking place, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans dispatched a plane to fly over the Farley Mowat to once again order us out of Canadian waters.

I am astounded at their priorities, said Captain Alex Cornelissen on the Farley Mowat. I would have thought that all of their resources would have been directed at assisting sealing vessels in trouble in the ice and that harassing Sea Shepherd would be the last of their worries.