Monday, March 27, 2006

SEAL HUNTERS CLASH WITH PROTESTERS


The seal slaughter is underway in Canada and protesters are on the scene.

Below is a statement issued by the Humane Society of the United States. This is followed by an article from CTV.

Statement from Dr. John Grandy on the Ramming of The HSUS's Hunt Observer Boat

The following is a statement from Dr. John Grandy, The Humane Society of the United States' Senior Vice President for Wildlife and Habitat Protection, on the March 26 ramming of a boat carrying HSUS employees and media who were documenting the 2006 Canadian seal hunt.

"Today, a Canadian sealing vessel rammed an inflatable boat carrying employees of The Humane Society of the United States and a member of the media in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The HSUS team and its boat—present not to disrupt the hunt or obstruct it, but only to document the injuring and killing of seals—was pushed atop an ice floe.

A second sealing boat backed off after seeing our larger boat approaching to assist.

This deliberate attack on our boat was reckless and irresponsible and it posed a tangible threat to the lives of our people and a member of the press. Rebecca Aldworth and other HSUS crew members would only be able to survive for a few minutes if they had been tossed from their boat into the icy waters. As required by law, our boat was staying the required distance from sealers actively engaged in the hunt. Footage from the attack will be turned over to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and we expect authorities to prosecute those responsible for this calculated act of violence."

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Activists arrested after first weekend of seal hunt

Tensions between seal hunters and protestors remained high Sunday, as the annual harvest on Canada's East Cost finished its first weekend.

Officials arrested seven people southeast of the Iles de la Madeleine for allegedly violating the conditions of their observer permits, according to the federal Fisheries Department.

Observers must stay more than 10 metres from sealers during the hunt, and officials say the six men and one woman might have broken that condition.

The group was released shortly after their arrest. Officials did not release their names, although only two were Canadian.

In another incident Sunday, a sealing boat reportedly rammed an inflatable Zodiac boat carrying Humane Society of the United States protesters. The collision damaged the Zodiac's propeller.

"We're in Canadian waters and Canadian laws still apply here,'' said Rebecca Aldworth, the society's spokesman.

"The hunters may be frustrated and I know they don't want us documenting their activities, but that doesn't give them the right to risk peoples' lives.''

Many seal hunters are parking their boats and taking a few days off before resuming the harvest.

A spokesman for sealers on the Iles de le Madeleine told The Canadian Press on Sunday that many young harp seals have not yet totally shed their white coats.

Until they do, their pelts have almost no value, said Jean-Claude LaPierre, a longtime sealer.

LaPierre said the harvest was poor and most crews came back with only a few seals.

His boat took just 60 seals -- a relatively low number.

The quota for the hunt in the Gulf of St. Lawrence this year is 91,000 seals.

Fisheries spokesman Marcel Boudreau said about 3,000 seals were taken on Saturday. On a good day, about 5,000 are harvested.

Forty-seven boats were on the water, with most from the Iles de la Madeleine, he said.

As a result, the Gulf hunters are using rifles instead of hakapiks, spiked clubs that are used to crush the young seals' skulls, he said.

With much of the ice in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence having broken up into small pieces that are drifting out into the Atlantic Ocean, "it will be a very slow hunt this spring," Boudreau said.

Another 234,000 can be taken in the much larger hunt off northern Newfoundland and Labrador beginning next month. About 90 per cent of the seals taken in the Newfoundland hunt are killed with rifles.

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