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* Third vessel abandoned

* Heavy ice slows hunt

* Three sealers dead; one missing

* Ship sinks; sealers rescued

* Focus on sealer safety

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Sealers in Danger

Death and Destruction for Sealers


Third vessel abandoned in seal hunt

The Telegram April 17, 2008

Sealing Boat Sinking
The White Bay Challenger was being escorted by the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Ann Harvey, when it was struck by ice and sank today. — Photo submitted by Canadian Coast Guard

A third vessel taking part in the seal hunt has been evacuated.
The White Bay Challenger was headed towards Englee in the early morning today, escorted by the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Ann Harvey, when it was struck by ice.
Coast Guard spokesman Kevin Barnes said the vessel started taking on water.
Three pumps were placed in the vessel, which managed to keep it afloat for some time. But at about 6:30 a.m. the crew was forced to abandon the vessel.
“I guess they couldn’t keep up with the ingress (of water),” said Barnes.
The seven crew members were taken aboard the Harvey, which was headed to port in St. Anthony this morning.
The vessel sank shortly after.
Two other vessels had to be abandoned since the seal hunt started on the west coast Friday and the east coast Saturday. The Lacy May burned to the waterline off Catalina on Monday, while the BS Venture went ashore near Rocky Harbour later that day.
No one was hurt in either instance.



N.L. seal hunt slow for boats from amid heavy ice

By The Canadian Press
Thu. Apr 17 - 7:23 AM

ST. JOHN'S — The seal hunt continues for crews aboard boats from Newfoundland and Labrador, but at a much slower pace than last year.

As of Wednesday, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans says about 44 per cent of the quota was taken at the Front off the northeast coast of the province.

Off the west coast, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, sealers have taken about 49 per cent of their quota.

Earlier this week, officials confirmed that far fewer boats from Newfoundland and Labrador are taking part in this year's hunt.

Some have suggested that the high cost of fuel and lower pelt prices are taking their toll on the annual harvest.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Coast Guard has been helping sealers trying to get through heavy ice.

The coast guard ship Ann Harvey assisted five vessels caught in the ice off St. Anthony on Wednesday.

The ship is now helping six more vessels caught in heavier ice southeast of Bell Isle for several days.

Several vessels are also caught up in ice in other areas.



Three dead, one missing after seal hunting vessel capsizes in E Canada

www.chinaview.cn 2008-03-29 23:58:11

OTTAWA, March 29 (Xinhua) -- The bodies of three seal hunters have been recovered and one remains missing after their fishing boat capsized early Saturday in eastern Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard said.

The 12-meter vessel had steering problems and was being towed by a Canadian Coast Guard ship early Saturday when it overturned about 70 kilometers north of Cape Breton, Canadian Press reported quoting Lt. Lora Collier of the Canadian navy.

The vessel, from the Iles de la Madeleine in Quebec, was carrying a crew of six when it ran into trouble in the icy waters. Another vessel that was nearby picked up two of the crew members, who were on deck when the boat overturned. The other four men were sleeping below deck when the boat flipped, Collier said.

Divers were still searching for the fourth missing sealer, he said.

Canada's annual seal hunt started Friday in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Ottawa has set a quota of 275,000 animals for this year's hunt, up 5,000 from last year.
Editor: Yan Liang



Seven Quebec sealers rescued after ship sinks

Sealers Abandon Ship
Sailors remove equipment from the sealing boat F/V Annie Marie as it takes in water off the coast of Cape Breton, N.S. on Saturday, March 29, 2008. (Andrew Vaughan / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Updated Sat. Mar. 29 2008 6:46 PM ET

The Canadian Press

HALIFAX -- Seven sailors who abandoned their vessel as it sank in ice-filled waters off Cape Breton have been rescued. They were rescued the same day another ship capsized, leaving three sealers dead and another missing.

The navy says the sailors from the Annie Marie were rescued by a Cormorant search-and-rescue helicopter around 4 p.m. today, 20 kilometres northeast of Cape North, N.S.

They left their 17-metre wooden boat as it took on water, and then waited on the pack ice for help.

The sailors were being transported to Iles-de-la-Madeleine, Que, where they live.

The navy's news release didn't say what type of vessel the sailors were on, but seal hunting supplies can be seen in a picture of the sailors leaving the boat.

The Annie Marie ran into trouble in the same frigid waters where the sealing vessel L'Acadien II capsized overnight, leaving three sealers dead and another missing.



Tragedy switches focus from saving seals to hunter safety



March 29, 2008 at 4:59 PM EDT

FREDERICTON — Canada's seal hunt has been dominated for years by the bitter debate over saving seals, but the deaths of three hunters in the icy North Atlantic is focusing attention on the safety of sealers and the risks they take to maintain a way of life.

Seal hunters from Iles-de-la Madeleine began making their way home on Saturday following a tragic accident in which a 12-metre fishing boat, L'Acadien II, capsized while being towed behind an icebreaker.

Of the six crew members on board, only two were pulled alive from the waters of the Cabot Strait. One is still missing.

While the accident cut short this year's hunt for people from Iles-de-la-Madeleine, left the ice floes out of respect for their lost comrades, it's not expected to affect the much larger hunt to come off Newfoundland and Labrador in April.

Veteran sealer Mark Small of Wild Cove, Nfld., said most sealers have had close calls during the annual hunt , a fixture of Atlantic coastal life for more than 200 years.

As well, there have been numerous tragedies over the years, including the death by exposure of 78 sealers from the S.S. Newfoundland during a savage blizzard in March 1914.

“It's something the Newfoundlanders, the Magdalen Islanders and the Labrador people understand,” Mr. Small said in an interview.

“It's a way of life. There's a lot of risk involved whether you're out on the ice or out fishing in the summer. It's the hazard of taking part in any activity in the North Atlantic or the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It's part of your life as a fisherman.”

Mr. Small, who has been hunting seals for over 50 years in the area called the Front off northern Newfoundland, said sealing isn't as dangerous now as it was in the old days.

He said the fishing boats that go out these days are usually strengthened for ice conditions. However, many of the small boats that hunt in the Gulf are made of wood.

Seal hunt opponents seized on the weekend tragedy as yet another reason for the Canadian government to reconsider the seal hunt and end it once and for all.

“We have said for a number of years that the seals aren't the only victims of the commercial seal hunt,” said Rebecca Aldworth of the Humane Society of the United States.

“People have lost their lives this year. It's an absolute tragedy and it's one that could have been avoided if the federal government had stepped in with a sealing industry buy-out package as we have been asking them to do for years.”

Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society said the Canadian government puts a great deal of effort into making sure hunt opponents abide by exacting standards.

But he said the government has not done as much to make sure the hunters are safe.

“It seems if you're a conservation vessel they pull out all the stops to make sure every ‘t' is crossed and every ‘i' dotted on all the regulations,” Mr. Watson said in an interview from Los Angeles.

“But they seem to waive everything when it comes to the hunters.”

The Sea Shepherd ship, Farley Mowat, is currently making its way through the ice of the Gulf of St. Lawrence towards the area where most of the sealing activity has taken place.

Transport Canada has directed the Farley Mowat not to enter Canadian waters until it complies with international marine safety conventions.

The Farley Mowat is a large, ice-class vessel with a steel hull.

“I find it strange the minister is talking about how unsafe my vessel is in the ice, but he's allowing these wooden boats to go out,” Watson said.

The ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is unusually thick this year, a stark contrast from last year when there was almost no ice and little hunting took place.

Sealers can kill a total of 275,000 seals this year. One-third of that total can be taken in the Gulf, while the remainder will be killed off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador.



Survivor recounts sealer Gulf tragedy

Canwest News Service
Published: Saturday, March 29, 2008

Canadian Coast Guard Search Helicopter
A search and rescue Canadian Coast Guard helicopter is seen during the seal hunt March 29, 2008 in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence in Canada.

HALIFAX - While shocked residents of the tiny Magdalen islands grieved over the deaths of three sealers Saturday, questions arose over a coast guard rescue operation gone wrong, including from one of the survivors.

A fourth sealer was still missing.

"There were no members of the icebreaker that were watching the towing," Bruno-Pierre Bourque told RDI, a French all-news TV channel after he had been returned by helicopter to the Magdalen Islands. "They did at the start, there were four or five of them, but I don't know if it was because it was cold, but they went inside and no one was watching."

The 12-metre sealing vessel Bourque and the other crew members were on was being towed by a coast guard icebreaker when it capsized early Saturday morning.

Bourque said the icebreaker had been travelling at about 2.5 knots but then accelerated to four knots before the sealing vessel, the L'Acadien II, which was being towed on the side of the icebreaker, slammed into a big piece of ice around 1:15 a.m. Saturday.

He said that forced the boat over on its side and it quickly took on water. He and the other survivor, Claude Deraspe, in his early 20s, managed to make it off the boat and into the water.

"Luckily, there was a boat that was just behind the icebreaker and they fished me out quickly with my colleague," he said.

"When we hit the ice, the icebreaker (the Sir William Alexander) didn't know. It was the other boat that alerted the towing boat (the icebreaker) to stop. It all happened very quickly.

"Three got out and three didn't, including my father, who was the captain," said Bourque of the crew, which was all from the Magdalen Islands, a windswept archipelago in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, between Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.

"People here are in shock," said Joel Arseneau, the mayor of the Magdalen Islands. "It is a tragedy that is really hitting the community.

"We are in mourning here and there is an incomprehension about what happened."

Arseneau identified the dead men as Bruno Bourque, the captain who was in his 50s; Gilles Leblanc, also in his 50s and Marc-Andre Deraspe, in his early 20s, who is not related to the survivor Claude Deraspe.

Carl Aucoin, a young father with a two-year old child, was still missing.

The search for the missing sealer continued into Saturday evening in the icy waters off Cape Breton. A Cormorant helicopter from Gander, N.L., circled the area, while several local fishing boats criss-crossed the water.

A second sealing boat was actually in trouble Saturday but coast guard and Department of Defence staff successfully rescued seven people off the fishing vessel, Annie Marie. The boat was crushed in the ice pack.

Arseneau said people understand the dangers of hunting on the ice, but were surprised the tragedy happened with the coast guard there. "People feel powerless and there is a great sadness here."

Mike Voigt, superintendent of the Canadian Coast Guard Search and Rescue in Halifax, said it was too early to outline what took place on the water, but he expected the incident would come under review from a number of agencies, including the Transportation Safety Board.

The vessel, registered from the Magdalen Islands, Que., was taking part in the seal hunt when the boat had a problem with its rudder in waters described as being 50 per cent covered with ice.

"It was simply a problem with the rudder," said Bruno-Pierre Bourque. "It was broken. It was more a towing than an SOS."

Voigt couldn't answer why the men were on their vessel when the coast guard ship towed it free of the ice. "You're looking for regulations for towing. There aren't detailed regulations for search-and-rescue cases," he said.

Boat operators normally sign a waiver when they are towed, Voigt said, describing the document as a statement of safety. He couldn't say whether the men were invited onto the deck of the coast guard ship before they were towed.

"I don't know what was offered out there. I can't say," Voigt said.

Voigt noted that about 600 to 700 boats in the Maritimes are towed annually.

"With ice involved, in the middle of the night, there's some risk involved," he said. "But I can't speak to this case."

Even while the search continued for the fourth man, the small fleet of boats from the Magdalen Island abandoned the hunt and headed for home.

"I believe most are abandoning the hunt for this year because of the tragedy and the extremely difficult conditions," said Arseneau.

"Most will return without any revenue."

David Bevan, an assistant deputy minister with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, said ice is at almost record levels in the Gulf of St. Lawrence this year. "These are very difficult conditions at this moment."

Mike Considine, commander with the Joint Task Force Atlantic, which handles military planning and response in the region, said a Cormorant helicopter and a Hercules aircraft were dispatched from 14 Wing Greenwood, N.S., to aid in the rescue. Two search and rescue crew parachuted from the Hercules to the deck of the Canadian Coast Guard ship Sir William Alexander, while two dropped from the Cormorant.

They then strapped on diving gear and entered the frigid water, where they were able to recover the bodies of three of the sealers.

Considine said the search and rescue crew dove to the extent of their capabilities and the time they could spend in the water before abandoning the search for the fourth man. "They just basically dove until they couldn't carry on any more with regard to the time they could spend in the water."

L'Acadien II, which was built in 1988, was about 70 kilometres north of Cape Breton and was being towed to Sydney, N.S.

The southern Gulf of St. Lawrence seal hunt began Friday and is concentrated in the Cabot Strait area between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.

© Canwest News Service 2008



Canada's seal hunt slowed by bad weather

By Tom Chivers and agencies
Last Updated: 9:03pm GMT 29/03/2008

Sealers Attacking Seal Pups
Sealers attacking seal pups. (c) UK Telegraph

Heavy ice and bad weather are hampering the start of the controversial Canadian seal hunt.

Only 15 seals have so far been killed in the hunt, as pursuing vessels found their paths blocked by the sea ice.

"It's a very slow start," Fisheries and Oceans Canada spokesman Phil Jenkins said.

Meanwhile, four men are missing after a fishing vessel from the Iles de la Madeleine in Quebec capsized while being towed by a Canadian Coast Guard ship.

It was not immediately clear if the vessel was participating in the seal hunt.

About 16 boats with 100 hunters headed out from the Iles de la Madeleine at the opening of the hunt toward a large herd of seals in the Cabot Strait between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

Three sealing vessels were reported to be struggling in the heavy ice conditions - two taking in water and the other suffering mechanical problems.

The allotted catch in this year's seal hunt has been set at 275,000 of the animals, down from a total of 335,000 two years ago.

Sealers Attacking Seal Pups
Seal escapes from sealer. (c) UK Telegraph

Poor ice conditions last winter brought the limit down to 270,000 last year.

The conditions have also hindered animal rights groups' efforts to monitor the hunt. Only one helicopter was able to get off the ground due to a snow storm.

The groups say the hunt is cruel and ravages the population of the seals, and that monitoring difficulties make it hard to know if catch limits are adhered to.

However, sealers and the fisheries department defend the hunt, which is the largest for marine mammals anywhere in the world.

They say that it is sustainable and well-managed, and that it provides income for isolated fishing communities damaged by the cod stock collapse.

Fishermen sell seal pelts mostly to the fashion industry in Norway, Russia and China, as well as blubber for oil, earning about US$78 for each seal.

The 2006 hunt brought in about $25 million (£12.5 million). However, the United States, the Netherlands and Belgium have all banned Canadian seal products, and the European Union is considering extending its ban on baby seal pelts to include adult products.

Click here for video footage.


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