The incident was brought to the attention of fishery officers earlier this week, says Doug Wentzell, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ (DFO) regional director of fisheries management.
“We proceeded to do an investigation and as a result of that investigation, DFO has laid charges against the three individuals,” he said.
The alleged illegal behaviour, with respect to the mistreatment of a seal pup, happened on board a vessel off the coast of Yarmouth.
Mark Allan MacKenzie, Jay Alexander Jenkins and Brendon Douglas James Porter have been charged with two infractions of the department’s Marine Mammal Regulations and one infraction under the Federal Fisheries Act. A court date of April 3 has been set for the case.
A disturbing video posted on one of the accused persons’ Facebook Page (since removed) shows a seal pup being poked with a buoy, teased with a line and kicked.
A photo of one individual holding the seal with its head bloodied was also posted.
Wentzell could not comment on the range of penalties applicable to the crimes and said that would depend on the court process.
A rally condemning the incident and demanding that the fishing licences of the three accused be revoked will be held at noon, on Friday, Feb. 3, in front of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans building at 215 Main St.
A regional member-supported association of lobster fishermen released a statement on Feb. 2, concerning the actions of the accused:
“The Coldwater Lobster Association condemns the actions of the individuals that carried out the abuse of a young seal. In no way will we condone that type of behaviour.
This incident does not reflect, in any way, the behaviour of the fishermen that ply their trade in this area. This is an isolated incident perpetrated by only three individuals.
Very rarely does a fisherman come in contact with this type of mammal in the long-line ground fishery or the lobster fishery.
An incident like this can have far reaching effects and condemnations of a particular fishery if the circumstances are not fully explained to the public.”
Charges laid in seal mistreatment
Government of Canada Fishery - General Regulations
Section 33 (2a & b) Release of Incidental Catch
(2) Except where the retention of an incidental catch is expressly authorized by any of the Regulations listed in subsection 3 (4), every person who catches a fish incidentally shall forthwith return it
(a) to the place from which it was taken; and (b) where it is alive, in a manner that causes it the least harm.
Government of Canada - Marine Mammal Regulations Prohibitions
7 No person shall disturb a marine mammal except when fishing for marine mammals under the authority of these Regulations.
8 No person shall attempt to kill a marine mammal except in a manner that is designed to kill it quickly.