3 charged over video showing alleged mistreatment of baby seal
Published Thursday, February 2, 2017 9:06AM EST
Three fishermen have been charged after a video posted online appeared to show a seal pup being taunted prior to its death.
The video, which was posted on Facebook by one of the accused, appears to show fishermen shouting at the seal and occasionally prodding at it. A photos posted along with the video shows one of the fishermen posing with the baby seal after its death.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has charged three men from Nova Scotia with alleged mistreatment of a marine mammal in connection with the incident. "Our officers are taking this offence extremely seriously," Doug Wentzell, regional director general for the DFO, told CTV Atlantic. He declined to comment on what punishment the accused could face if they are convicted.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Sara Iverson of the Ocean Tracking Network says the seal in the video appears to be approximately one week old, which would make it too young to be hunted by a licensed sealer.
"The fact that it's covered with lanugo, that white fur, indicates that it's definitely a newborn seal," she said.
The seal hunt is legal in Canada, but federal law prohibits fishermen from killing seal pups that have not shed their white fur. "Harp and grey seal cannot be legally hunted until they have moulted their first fur and are living independently," the DFO website says.
Mark Allan MacKenzie, who is among the three fisherman accused, says he and his crewmates were examining the seal, not taunting it. He told CTV Atlantic the seal pup became tangled in a hook and the crew decided to put it out of its misery. He added that he posted video and photos of the animal online because he thought it was interesting.
MacKenzie declined to appear on camera for an interview with CTV Atlantic.
Activist Caitlin Buchanan plans to hold a rally outside the DFO's office in Yarmouth to demand punishment for the three accused.
"I want to see their licences revoked," she told CTV Atlantic. "I don't want to see them suspended, I don't want to see fines. Their licences should be revoked."