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Sea Shepherd Operation Desert Seal – not for the Fainthearted

By July 22, 2011No Comments

It was a long flight from the Shetlands, but I made it to Johannesburg not overly tired and ready to make my connection to Durban. I decided to use my Canadian passport to enter, although both passports (my other one is from the U.S.A.) are flagged on the Blue List.

The immigration woman ran my passport and said, “You are wanted by the South African police.”

“Not really,” I replied. “I know it looks that way but it’s not a problem. Just have the police come over and in a few minutes we can clear this up and I’ll be on my way.”

She looked at me curiously, as I told her, “It’s the same list that the Dalai Lama is on. We’re both officially defined as terrorists for political reasons, he by China, and I by Japan, but there are no arrest warrants.”

A police officer approached and he was very friendly and we talked about the warrant, Nelson Mandela, his trip to Canada…once, etc., until we got to the police station in the airport. “Wait here and I’ll run the passport for some more information,” he said.

There was another man there in the waiting area, a guy from Cape Town. We exchanged pleasantries as the officers tapped away on their computer keyboards. The woman behind the desk had a printout on me in full color with photo and fingerprints.

The phone rang and my friendly police officer said, “Ok, there is an arrest warrant…understood…alright, we will hold him here until he can be transferred.”

So I’m thinking to myself, “Well this is new. What do I do now? Oh well, it’s always something.”

So as I prepared myself to be cuffed and booked, the officer put down the phone and turned to the other guy that was waiting and said, “There is a warrant from Cape Town for you for drugs.”

The man protested his innocence and I felt sorry for him, but I was also very relieved that they had not been talking about me. The officer then turned to me and handed my passport back and said, “You’re free to go, and by the way, I like your show!”

And off I went to catch my connection to Durban to present Trish Dolman’s film Eco-Pirate: The Story of Paul Watson at the Durban International Film Festival. Upon arrival, I was hit with a slew of media interviews.

I was a little concerned about the law however, not in South Africa, but in Namibia. For the last month, I have had a team in Namibia working to document the horrific slaughter of the South African (Cape) fur seals in a campaign we have aptly titled Operation Desert Seal led by Steve Roest and Laurens De Groot (stay tuned for more news soon). You see in Namibia, like in Canada, it is illegal to film seals being killed. However, there is one big difference between the two and that is in Canada they will arrest you for filming the seal slaughter, but in Namibia, they will resort to violence that could cost you your life.

And thus yesterday, the crew was on the run having been discovered in the desert near the beach by Namibian military equipped with night vision. Fortunately, our crew had night vision also and it was a running chase through the desert to the vehicles some five kilometers away. The Namibian Navy, with two military vessels, had taken up positions off the beach and the whole damn horror show of a seal slaughter was now under the full protection of the Namibian armed forces.

This was followed by the President of Namibia issuing a statement that he considered our attempt to document the slaughter to be a matter of national security. He wanted those responsible in the custody of his government. It was a long drive through the desert, avoiding checkpoints and police, but the crew managed to cross the border into South Africa.

A total of 92,000 seal pups are condemned to die on the beaches of the Cape Cross Seal Reserve in Namibia this summer. It is an illegal hunt that survives only because of bribes and corruption reaching to the highest levels of the Namibian government, police, and military.

Our crew found out just how high it goes over the last few weeks and barely escaped with their freedom and in one piece. They did lose several cameras and laptops that were taken when their accommodations were broken into, with Namibia using the cameras as proof that we had infiltrated their security zone

Meanwhile, the crew of the Brigitte Bardot is patrolling the waters off the Faeroe Islands to defend pilot whales from the grind while a Danish warship closely trails them. For the first time in Sea Shepherd history, we have two different navies deployed at the same time, in different hemispheres trying to stop us from trying to stop the illegal slaughter of our clients in the sea.

It really is a strange world where armed navies are being put to work defending the destroyers of life in our oceans.

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