Sealing activists bailed out with bag of toonies
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Monday, April 14, 2008 11:27PM EDT
Anti-sealing advocate Paul Watson used a brimming bag of change to bail out two members of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society on Monday, freeing the arrested activists on a $10,000 bond paid partly in toonies.
Watson posted the bail at the Cape Breton courthouse Monday afternoon, freeing the chief officer and captain of the Farley Mowat, who are accused of steering the ship too close to the seal hunt.
They were arrested on Saturday in the Gulf of St. Lawrence after Mounties armed with submachine-guns stormed the vessel, which was also seized.
Watson says the Canadian government committed an act of piracy, saying Mounties boarded the Mowat in international waters.
He said he chose a bag of toonies for part of the payment because that is how pirates prefer to be paid, and said the bond money came from author Farley Mowat himself.
"We look at this as ransom and we're paying it in dubloons," he said.
Interviewed at his home in Port Hope, Ont., Mowat told The Canadian Press he was deeply honoured when the Society named its ship after him. He voiced his support for the crew and said he was ashamed of the Canadian officials' behaviour.
"A gross miscarriage of justice has been perpetrated by Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn and any Canadian with any conscience would try to rectify it,'' said the animal rights activist known for such novels as "Owls in the Family" and "A Whale for the Killing."
The RCMP maintains the boarding was a routine operation taken against a ship that was in violation of the law and that the vessel was in Canadian waters when it was boarded.
They have accused the Mowat of coming within 900 metres of the hunt, an offence under federal regulations unless an observer's permit has been issued.
The Mowat also had several recent run-ins with a Canadian Coast Guard vessel enforcing seal hunt observer limits.
The federal fisheries minister said Monday that he had no sympathy for the Society's antics, calling the group ineffective and Watson untrustworthy.
Hearn told reporters on Parliament Hill the Society's efforts to have seal pelts banned in Europe simply aren't working.
"We have made good headway with the European Union," he said. "We have a number of politicians who solidly support us."
Danny Williams, premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, called Watson a terrorist on Monday, saying the Sea Shepherds are not welcome in the province.
Crew back in court May 1
The arrested crew members are due back before the courts May 1. They are expected to face charges under federal marine mammal regulations and the Fisheries Act.
Watson, the Society's founder, said crew members were treated like criminals despite having done nothing wrong.
He maintains his group was simply observing the hunt and recording what he described as "inhumane" tactics, including footage of a seal being skinned alive that will soon be released to the public.
Shannon Mann, a member of the Mowat's crew, said Monday that 17 people who were on the boat were originally taken into custody. All but two have now been released.
The fisheries minister said that while Canada is cracking down on international piracy, the government has nothing against conservation groups who want to peacefully observe the controversial hunt.
"Come and observe, participate. We love to see tourists come to Canada, certainly in Newfoundland and Labrador, but not to come and disrupt," Hearn said.