SEA SHEPHERD’S R/V MARTIN SHEEN CLEARED TO ENTER CANADA – AFTER PROTRACTED 2 DAY EXAMINATION BY CANADIAN CUSTOMS
Sea Shepherd’s research vessel, the R/V Martin Sheen, arrives in British Columbia to study the impact that farmed salmon has on wild salmon populations for the third year.
May 28th, 2018 – Victoria, BC, Canada – It was a long voyage for the eight crew of the R/V MARTIN SHEEN, sailing from Honolulu on May 10th and arriving in Victoria B.C. on May 26th. The yacht’s crew reported their ETA to Canadian Customs (CBSA) days in advance and were not expecting any issues. In addition, Sea Shepherd Ship Operations ran through the arrival protocol with CBSA on two separate phone calls, confirming arrival procedures were correct.
The R/V MARTIN SHEEN is a US Registered Private Yacht, it is not a commercial vessel. For Captain Chris Holt of Boston, MA, it was a delivery voyage, as his mission was to deliver the boat to British Columbia in preparation for Sea Shepherd’s third year of Operation Virus Hunter.
Four Canadian Customs officers boarded the MARTIN SHEEN shortly after arrival at 7 pm local time Saturday evening, and did not come with a smile or a welcome.
The captain and crew were detained onboard and questioned for five straight hours. This is highly unusual for a Private Yacht or a Commercial Vessel.
Canadian Customs Officers demanded to know why the ship was in Canadian waters and the yacht’s intentions in the region. Captain Holt stated he was just the delivery skipper, and was unfamiliar and not in a position to comment on the vessel owner’s (Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s) future plans.
CBSA accused the skipper of lying or avoiding the true nature of the voyage. Captain Holt told the officers that details of past campaigns could be found online but that he would not be involved in the upcoming campaign. CBSA officers continued to state they did not believe his story.
CBSA wanted to know if Dr. Alexandra Morton would be boarding the vessel and when. Captain Holt said he did not have information on her intentions, and told them that from what he knew the campaign was a research mission.
One of the Customs officers asked him why Sea Shepherd would be doing research when the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) already does this type of research.
The officers then implied that the MARTIN SHEEN was not a legitimate yacht and would have to be cleared as a commercial vessel, a category that would present restrictions, a great deal of paperwork as well as burdensome reporting procedures during the vessel’s stay in British Columbian waters.
After five hours, they allowed seven of the crew to clear and to go ashore. They took Captain Holt’s passport and told him he would be detained onboard until Monday morning.
On Monday morning Sea Shepherd Director of Ship Operations and Campaigns Locky MacLean arrived just in time at 1100 Hours PST at the Customs House on Blanshard St. in Victoria for an examination into the issue.
The examination at Customs Headquarters lasted two hours as Locky relayed to one CBSA officer the nature of the vessel’s voyage and upcoming campaign, emphasizing that all of Sea Shepherd’s past voyages in the region were highly publicized and information was publicly available. He added that Sea Shepherd did not intend to keep any of the vessel’s movements or purpose a secret from CBSA, but questioned the necessity for added monitoring of the yacht’s movements and the notion that further independent science into the effects of salmon farms on migratory salmon and forage fish was not needed in BC.
During the hearing, media began calling Victoria Customs office and this was relayed to Captain MacLean by a CBSA officer who asked if he was expecting a call.
The officer issued minimal extra requirements including the filling of a General Declaration, and additional reporting and check-in obligations imposed throughout the voyage.
Finally, CBSA granted clearance with one officer stating it was best to avoid a situation that could become a headache for Ottawa.
The MARTIN SHEEN was granted clearance into Canada at 3:30 pm on May 28th. It had taken 44 hours, a record for the MARTIN SHEEN. Captain Holt had his passport returned and was free to leave the ship.
The MARTIN SHEEN has spent two previous summers in B.C. waters working with independent biologist Alexandra Morton. The ship and the Sea Shepherd crew have not broken any law during their time in Canadian waters nor is there an intention ever to do so.
It appears the Canadian government is very worried about Dr. Morton’s independent research into piscine reovirus and parasites being transmitted from the farms to wild salmon species.
And they should be worried because the Canadian DFO has been covering up the truth about this threat to the entire B.C. marine ecosystem by this invasive foreign Atlantic salmon species. Salmon farms have been banned in the neighboring states of Washington and Alaska and next month the government of British Columbia must make a decision on the renewal of the licenses for these destructive facilities. If they decide to renew, there will be huge consequences for the provincial government from First Nations tribes and environmental and conservation organizations.
Sea Shepherd has committed the MARTIN SHEEN to support Alexandra Morton’s research during Operation Virus Hunter this summer. It’s a research project, not a protest and the objective is knowledge.
Also on Monday, May 28th the Dzawada’enuxw First Nation of Kingcome Inlet filed a claim of Aboriginal title at the BC Supreme Court in Vancouver. The claim states that the provincially-granted tenures of four companies, Marine Harvest, Cermaq, International Forest Products and Western Forest Products, are not authorized by the Land Act or the Forest Act because they are in Aboriginal title areas. Ten fish farms that are in the Broughton Archipelago operated by Marine Harvest and Cermaq are affected, as well as mostly inactive forest tenures held by Interfor and Western Forest Products.