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Cablegate: Seal Hunt Protests: The Annual Controversy and Arrests

VZCZCXRO7282
PP RUEHGA RUEHQU RUEHVC
DE RUEHHA #0025 1052001
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 142001Z APR 08
FM AMCONSUL HALIFAX
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1272
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA PRIORITY 0519
INFO RUCNCAN/ALL CANADIAN POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUEHTC/AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE PRIORITY 0003
RUEHHA/AMCONSUL HALIFAX 1359

UNCLAS HALIFAX 000025

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CAN; OES/OA
OTTAWA FOR JAMES STEELE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHSA EFIS SENV CASC
SUBJECT: SEAL HUNT PROTESTS: THE ANNUAL CONTROVERSY AND ARRESTS

REF: A. A. HALIFAX 0023 (NOTAL)
B. B. HALIFAX 0024 (NOTAL)

1. Summary: Animal rights activist Paul Watson has seen
Canadian authorities tow his vessel the "Farley Mowat" into
Sydney, Nova Scotia and his two key officers arrested in
connection with his traditional battle to stop Canada's seal
hunt. End Summary.

2. The annual seal hunt off Canada's east coast is now fully
underway along with the traditional bitter confrontation between
seal hunters and animal rights activists. As in previous years,
Paul Watson, the controversial founder and head of the
U.S.-based Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, is one of the
higher-profile protestors who has a long track record of trying
to disrupt the hunt. On the other side are those who support
the hunt either because of its economic importance to rural
communities in eastern Canada, or because of its role in
controlling the size of the seal herds. The sealing industry
receives considerable political support, primarily from the
Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) which manages
and exercises jurisdiction over the hunt. The current federal
minister in charge of DFO is Newfoundland-Labrador Member of
Parliament Loyola Hearn, who also represents his province in the
federal cabinet and is zealous in his support of the hunt.

3. DFO carries out its responsibilities in managing the hunt
with the coordination of the Canadian Coast Guard, which is a
division of DFO. Also involved is Transport Canada which has
jurisdiction over vessel safety regulations and enforcement
assistance is provided through Canada's federal police force,
the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). This year's hunt and
the corresponding protest season got underway on March 20 when
Transport Canada asserted that Watson's vessel the "Farley
Mowat", registered in the Netherlands, violated international
marine safety conventions. Transport Canada subsequently
ordered the vessel not to enter Canadian waters on two different
occasions. Minster Hearn asserted that the vessel did not
respond to these orders and went on to enter Canadian waters.
The minister also alleged that the vessel engaged in activities
in violation of Canada's Marine Mammal regulations, as contained
in Canada's Fisheries Act and which pertain to the minimum
requirement for the distance between ships and seal hunters.
These infractions allegedly took place on March 30 in Canadian
waters in the Northumberland Strait near Cape Breton, Nova
Scotia. Minister Hearn claimed that when the vessel did not
respond to these charges he asked the RCMP to board and seize
the vessel and then have the Coast Guard tow the vessel to
Sydney, Nova Scotia. This boarding took place on April 12, and
Canadian authorities have since impounded the vessel in Sydney,
Nova Scotia. The vessel's Captain and First Officer were
arrested for the charges relating to the mammal regulations, and
some crew members who refused to process through Canadian
customs were temporarily detained. Details of the arrest of the
American crew members involved in this case are found in
reftels. Post is unaware of any official Dutch response to the
boarding and seizure of the "Farley Mowat".

4. Comment: The seizure of the vessel and the fate of its crew
has turned into a high profile event, with both sides vying for
international media attention. Post will continue to report
significant developments relating to Watson's next steps and how
Minister Hearn responds. End comment.

FOSTER

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