Sea Shepherd Founder and President Captain Paul Watson Responds to Canadian Minister of Fisheries Loyola Hearn

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has a reputation for action that precedes us and that reputation seems to have provoked Canadian Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Loyola Hearn into shooting off media releases from the hip without thought or reason.

His exceptionally emotional response is no doubt motivated by the need to posture and pose for Newfoundland fishermen. Hearn, himself a Member of Parliament for Newfoundland is well aware that it has been the incompetence of the Canadian Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans that led to a total collapse of the cod fishery and the severe diminishment of practically every commercial fishery in Canada.

He needs to appear the hero to the Newfoundland fishermen and what better way to do this than to pounce upon a non-governmental organization trying to protect our oceans and endangered species like seals, whales and dolphins.

Once again it is our small under-funded organization that advances into the fray determined to oppose the largest slaughter of marine mammals on the planet. Once again the government trots out the propaganda machine to spew nonsense about the motivations of seal defenders, calling us outsiders who pretend to save seals so we can get "rich" off of contributions.

That argument does not fly with Sea Shepherd. Captain Paul Watson was raised in an East coast fishing village amongst fishermen. Sea Shepherd doesn't do telephone or door-to-door solicitations to raise money to protect seals. We are a small organization struggling to do what we can with the resources we have available to us to protect marine wildlife species from the greed of the fishing industry, from poachers and from the kind of incompetence that the Canadian government has become renowned for in the area of fisheries management.

There are groups raising millions to "protect" seals like Greenpeace and IFAW and others but you never see the likes of them on the ice actually defending seals. In recent years we've only seen the Humane Society of the United States out on the ice under the leadership of Rebecca Aldworth who herself hails from Newfoundland.

This is a movement not only established by Canadians but more specifically by Canadians from Eastern Canada including Canada's most distinguished and legendary writer Farley Mowat whose name graces the bow of the ship we are sending into the ice fields this week.

The European Parliament is debating a bill to ban seal products into Europe, a measure that will continue to elevate Europeans as the guardians of civilized values where slaughter for profit is a barbarism that must be abolished from the modern world of the 21st Century.

What are Sea Shepherd's intentions in taking our ship into the Gulf of St. Lawrence? Very simply we seek to document the slaughter of seals which in Canada is actually a crime. In fact it is a crime to film, photograph or even witness the killing of a seal under the bizarre "Seal Protection" regulations.

We now have an international crew onboard a Dutch registered ship that has every legal right to enter the Canadian Economic Exclusion Zone. We intend to stay outside of the twelve mile territorial limit. We don't intend to damage any sealing vessels or injure any sealers or human beings. We don't intend to do anything but exercise our right to witness an atrocity that the Canadian government is intending to cover up and to keep away from the eyes of the civilized world.

Yes we may be arrested, yes we may have our ship seized, yes our crew may be beaten and arrested by Canadian government thugs or sadistic sealers - but we will not back down to threats from the man who has become the Grand Inquisitor of the harp seals.

No Mr. Hearn we are coming and we will not back down in the face of your threats.

Below are comments from Loyola Hearn and Captain Paul Watson's responses.

Government of Canada Stands Up For Sealers and the Rule of Law
March 27, 2008

The Honourable Loyola Hearn, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, today issued the following statement:

I am gravely concerned with comments made by Paul Watson, leader of the extremist Sea Shepherd Society that he will disregard the Government of Canada's clear warning to stay outside of our waters and choose instead to threaten the safety and livelihood of Canadian sealers.

Captain Paul Watson: There is nothing extremist about protecting life. The Canadian government is taking an extremist position by sponsoring and subsidizing the largest and cruelest mass slaughter of any marine mammal species on the planet. We have not disregarded a Canadian warning to stay outside of Canadian waters and we have never threatened the safety of Canadian sealers. The Minister is making some very irresponsible statements here. Canada has no right to restrict entry of a foreign registered ship into the 200 mile economic exclusion zone when said ship is not engaged in economic activity. The Farley Mowat is a Dutch registered yacht crewed by international volunteers, none of who are paid to be on that ship. The ship has the right of passage and that is guaranteed by international maritime law. We suggest that the Minister consult with his attorneys before making further threats.

Mr. Watson's organization has been known to cause physical harm and damage to property. Their flagship vessel, the Farley Mowat, proudly bears the names of fishing vessels it claims to have sunk.

Captain Paul Watson: Yes we proudly bear the names of poaching vessels that we have sunk or rammed. They were all engaged in illegal activity and we shut them down legally. They were policing actions in accordance with the principles established by the United Nations Charter for Nature.  Maybe Mr. Hearn should explain how it is that we have not been charged let alone convicted of any felony in connection with scuttling and putting out of business illegal whalers and poachers. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has no intention of ramming any sealing vessels or government vessels.  We never have and we never will. Mr. Hearn is engaging in fear-mongering and setting up Sea Shepherd to appear as the aggressor when in fact all we intend to do is document the horror of the mass slaughter of seals.

Sealers in Atlantic Canada, Quebec and in the North should know that our government is standing up for their safety and security and will not accept such indiscriminate disregard of the law and the safety of our citizens.

Captain Paul Watson: Too bad the government did not stand up to protect the fisheries from over-fishing and over exploitation from foreign draggers instead of appeasing them now with this cheap charade of caring for the "fishermen".  I challenge any Canadian fisherman to applaud the abysmal record of the Canadian government when it comes to championing the real interests of Canadians and Canadian fishermen specifically. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has not violated any laws except for the bizarre "seal protection regulations" that we consider to be politically engineered to suppress legitimate dissent against an obscenity that I as a Canadian citizen regard as an embarrassment and a scandal.

Our government works hard to ensure the Canadian seal hunt is conducted in a humane, safe and sustainable manner and it adds a tremendous amount of value to those individuals who pursue it as their employment during a time when economic opportunities are limited in many remote, coastal communities. We will not be bullied or blackmailed into forcing people who depend on the sealing industry out of their livelihood based on things that are simply baseless allegations. The Sea Shepherd Society is just another organization in a long list of those trying to bully the Canadian sealing industry.

Captain Paul Watson: The Canadian government has not worked very hard to protect endangered species and habitat. They have constantly attempted to justify the cruelty of the slaughter by simply "saying" it is humane yet they prohibit independent observation unless the observers are approved by the government and usually that means a history of expressing sympathy for the atrocities witnessed on the ice. What is really incredible is that Loyola Hearn can, with a straight face, accuse vegetarians trying to defend innocent seal pups of being bullies. Oh those poor wimpy little sealers! Are they so frail and harassed that they need Daddy government to come running to defend them? In 2005 it was the sealers who attacked my crew with clubs and assaulted them. We have never raised a hand to them - yet in the warped reasoning of the Minister of Fisheries it is the club wielding thugs bashing in the skulls of seal pups that are cast in the role of victim by the Canadian government. Ah the art of the spin - there seems to be no limit to the absurdities the government will stoop to defend this horror.

In the days ahead we will be monitoring the situation very carefully, and taking every step to ensure the safety of our sealers.

Captain Paul Watson: Do what you will Mr. Hearn - the world is watching and Europe will be taking note of your over-bearing self righteous jingoistic biased and over the top defense of the largest bloody slaughter of any marine mammal species on the planet. BE the big man in Newfoundland and abuse your authority, but to the rest of the world you will appear for what you are - a sadistic goon, a self-serving thug and a disgrace to humanity.

Joshua Zanin
Special Assistant, Communications
Office of the Minister
Fisheries and Oceans Canada