Wednesday, March 30, 2005

A reply from the DFO

Look at what the cat dragged in... Kevin Stringer from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans responded to my letter to minister Geoff Regan.

I haven't responded yet, but I'll post my next letter on here when I draft it up.

This response letter seems sneakily like a form letter, too, I might add.

Dear Mr. Woods:

Thank you for your correspondence of March 23, 2005, regarding the Atlantic seal hunt. The Honourable Geoff Regan, P.C., M.P., Minister, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), has asked me to reply on his behalf.

While Canada certainly respects the rights of individuals to oppose the seal hunt, many myths about the seal hunt remain. I encourage you to form your opinion based on the facts. The harp seal population in Canada is healthy and abundant. The population is nearly three times what it was in the 1970s. This is due, in great part, to the strict conservation measures DFO has in place, and our commitment to the sustainable management of all seal populations.

In Atlantic Canada there has been, and continues to be, a hunt for harp and hooded seals. Sealing brings important economic benefits to coastal communities. Seals are a valuable natural resource, that, when harvested in a sustainable manner, provide valuable income to about 15,000 Canadian sealers and their families. As the federal minister responsible for the management of this resource, Minister Regan must ensure that the seal hunt is sustainable.

In September 2002 the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) issued a Special Report on Animal Welfare and the Harp Seal Hunt in Atlantic Canada. Results of independent observations of the seal hunt made by representatives and veterinarians of the CVMA, in recent years, were reported and compared to observations made by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). The conclusion of the CVMA study is that a large majority of seals taken during the hunt (98 per cent) are killed in an acceptably humane manner.

The hunt of harp (whitecoat) and hooded (blueback) seal pups has been banned in Canada since 1987. Regulations also prohibit the trade, sale, or barter of the fur of these pups. The seals hunted must be independent animals, i.e., they have already been weaned by their mothers and left to fend for themselves. They must have already molted their white or blue coats before they can be taken.

The existing multi-year (2003-2005) management measures for the seal hunt are based on sound conservation principles and a commitment to strong, peer-reviewed scientific advice. Quotas are set at levels that make the continued health and abundance of the herd the main priority. To meet this goal, DFO will continue to monitor and enforce the rules and regulations governing the seal hunt to ensure conservation is respected. The harp seal Total Allowable Catch (TAC) is set at 975,000 seals over three years. In 2003 a total of 283,497 harp seals were harvested, and in 2004 sealers harvested 365,971 harp seals.

Given the current high population levels, the new plan allows sealers to maximize their benefits without compromising conservation. Seal management is and will continue to be founded on sound conservation principles.

To help ensure proper conservation, DFO will continue to emphasize at-sea surveillance, conduct dock-side checks, monitor quotas, and check sealers for proper licence and observation permits: as well as ensure humane hunting practices, compliance with Marine Mammal Regulations, and the proper use of hunting instruments.

Again, thank you for taking the time to write to me about this important matter. I hope the information I have provided answers your questions and addresses your concerns. For further information, you can visit the following website:

original signed by:
Kevin Stringer
Director General
Resource Management
Fisheries and Aquaculture Management

The UN thinks we're in trouble

(I've been pretty busy lately, so this is sort of a filler entry, but still worth the read)

The United Nations just released their report on the state of our planet's eco-systems. Not surprisingly, things aren't looking very pretty.

Here's the Washinton Post's take.

In other news, the seals will still suffer and die, but not for a couple of more days, at least. Bad weather on the east coast has slowed the teeming hordes a little bit.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Martin Sheen crusades for seals

Further to the letter I wrote to Geoff Regan, I went searching for a video on the seal hunt. Well, I found it, and then I had to work up the courage to watch it.

Now that I have, I think I'll send it along to Mr. Regan, as well.

If you want to watch it, here it is:

Thursday, March 24, 2005

What's the cost of the word "toxic?"

This Liberal government (and its predecessor) have really, really dropped the ball on environmental issues.

We signed on to the Kyoto protocol without a plan, we let two years of budgets slip by without said plan, and the date of actual Kyoto plan came and went without us - you guessed it - having a plan.

If you were paying attention during the last election campaign, Martin also made some promises about getting food manufacturers to label all genetically engineered food.

Anyway, it looks as if the Liberals are attempting to make amends. They've just reworded one of the provisions of the proposed Federal Budget to allow greater government control over industrial carbon dioxide release. In fact, it was done by sneakily removing the word "toxic" from the text of the budget. Because CO2 is not toxic - but is a greenhouse gas - opposition governments are calling the move 1) just a way to tax carbon usage and 2) an underhanded way to gain support of a budget, and then change it around behind everyone's back.

It's not a great tactic, I have to admit, but I think it's high time that some sort of CO2 control came into plan in Canada. Steven Harper's environmental critic is strongly opposed to carbon usage taxing, but the countdown is on for some sort of carbon tax to take effect in Canada. Maybe it will be this year, or the next, but it is only a matter of time.

So by removing that word - "toxic" - from the budget draft, the government could force an election. If somehow the budget is passed and the Liberals stay in power, then that little word, and the absence of it, could have huge ramifications for the future of Canadian environmental policy. Positive ramifications.

I normally don't read or link to this piece of dirty propaganda, but this article is fairly balanced.

National Post - Harper could force election over Kyoto

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Fisheries and Oceans

My friend Duane sent me this article from, where little Geoffry Regan got his 5 minutes of fame (he didn't even qualify for Warhol's 15 minutes of fame).

So I went to his website, and got his email addresses, and I wrote him this letter:

Mr. Regan, I just finished reading the article on CNN which quotes you on this year's seal hunt.

You can find it at:

Unfortunately, the article erroneously indicates that a culling of the harp seal population will cause a rebound in cod stocks off the coast of Atlantic Canada. As recent scientific evidence has shown, harp seals eat both cod and fish who prey on cod, such that the complex interweavings of this ecosystem is not accurately controlled by controlling only one species. Even the Department of Fisheries and Oceans states this:

"The commercial seal quota is established based on sound conservation principles, not an attempt to assist in the recovery of groundfish stocks. Seals eat cod, but seals also eat other fish that prey on cod. There are several factors contributing to the lack of recovery ofAtlantic cod stocks such as fishing effort, the poor physical condition of the fish, poor growth, unfavourable ocean conditions and low stock productivity at current levels. It is widely accepted in the scientific community that there are many uncertainties in the estimates of the amount of fish consumed by seals. Seals and cod exist in a complex ecosystem, which makes it difficult to find simple solutions to problems such as the lack ofrecovery of cod stocks."

Yet, despite this lack of proof, you have decided to authorize the killing of more than 300,000 seals, and all for what appears to be a cash grab and a subsidizing of an ailing industry.Do you really believe that, when 300,000 seals are murdered, they are killed humanely? Or that they are culled in an environmentally sound way? Even if all seals were shot through the head with a bullet (which is not the case), there is a growing concern among researchers about the impact that the lead from the bullets is having on this ecosystem, as I'm sure you are aware.

Regardless, insiders in the industry know that inhumane killing occurs every day. In the article, you said, "(there is) misleading rhetoric and sensational images that tell a selective, biased and often false story. It is a real disgrace to have such negative light being cast on the Canadian men and women of this industry... These carefully- orchestrated campaigns twist the facts of the seal hunt for the benefit of a few extremely powerful and well-funded organizations."

This minimizes - and perhaps appeases your conscience of - the fact that there is a significant amount of documented proof of these inhumane killings. I fail to see how the images that have been recorded are "false." Some of your hunters are clubbing baby seals - who can reasonably dispute this?

And while I can appreciate you wanting to paint seal hunters in a positive manner, let's call a spade a spade - the seal hunters are killers, plain and simple.

You drew mention of the fact that in the 1970s, seal populations were at a manageable level. Why stop only 30 years ago? Why not remind the public that, before the industrialized fishing industry, ALL species in the oceans were at a manageable and natural level? Let me state my point more clearly - seal and cod populations were in a natural balance before we started overfishing the seas.

Finally, it hurts me to think that these seals are being killed only for their pelts - for the vanity of the fur industry - and to buoy an archaic industry on its last legs. I know that I will boycott Canadian seafood and I will educate others to do the same. I hope that someday, and someday soon, that we will see the end of this horrific and unnecessary act. It shames Canada and it shames me.

Andrew Woods,
Ottawa, Ontario

If you don't like the seal hunt, take a minute out of your day and send an email to Fisheries Minster Geoff Regan. Heck, copy the PM on the letter, too.

(I only put that "teacher" thing in there to show I had a (tiny) bit of cred. It's like that passport thing where you can only get a doctor or mayor or someone to sign it. They're slightly more important people.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

What real photography looks like

I love photography. Once upon a time, I almost deluded myself into thinking I had some talent behind the camera (see below for a couple samples).

But if you like seeing the work of (actual) talented photographers like I do, you'll love this site.

It's the winners of the world press photo contest - the winners of the best images (in various categories, like news, sports, contemporary issues, etc) that ran in any publication last year.

The images here are powerful. If you want to see an image tell a story, check this one out - it's of refugees being rescued from the sea. If you appreciate an amazing technical photograph, this is the one for you.

Awesome stuff.

Stag Party Posted by Hello

The Lighthouse Posted by Hello

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Chaos and Fractals

If you were wondering what the heck that picture of a fractal was last week, I have been researching chaos theory and fractals for one of my classes.

This website provides an clear, brief, and simple description of chaos. Most won't be interested, but there are a few who may be. It's a highly recommended read.

Friday, March 18, 2005

More on Alaskan Oil

People liked that last bit of blogging, so thanks to some resources from some friends, I've got a bit more for you today.

Mike Mulrooney, via the comment section:

" is far easier to check a box on a survey proclaiming that you [Americans] are for conservation and alternate energy sources, than it is to balance your checkbook with the consequences. Heck, the US has some of the cheapest petrol on the planet for consumers, but they cry if it goes to $2 per gallon. I am sitting next to a guy from Holland right now who just confirmed that his gas costs him $5 per gallon (taxes not withstanding, this is the price to the consumer)."

Absolutely, people in North America bitch and moan when oil prices go up. So what we need our politicians, technology leaders, teachers and educators, and brave, gentle souls to do is to give the rest of us here in the west options, strategies, and direction on consuming less fossil fuel. Waiting for market forces to push this energy revolution simply isn't good enough, because the Malthus (look him up) in me believes we're well on our way towards the great Thermocaust (to quote Greenpeace god Bob Hunter). Programs like tax breaks and cash incentives for eco-cars or energy-saving appliances is a good start... think how great it would be if instead of drilling for oil, we funded research into clean gas alternatives?

On two other notes, a friend of mine - Duane (who really should get around to writing his own blog. I'd read it), sent me two links.

One is of Rush Limbaugh making an ass of himself.

The other is a really cool explanation of how oil deposits are discovered and evaluated. It seems the consensus on the ANWR deposit is somewhere around 10 or 11 billion barrels of oil. For comparison purposes, the Athabasca Tar Sands project is estimated at 180 billion barrels (although the oil will be harder to extract).

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Alaska National Wildlife Refuge - this might be what heaven looks like. Posted by Hello

One step closer to drilling in Alaska.

Today (or was it late last night), the Bush administration pushed through some weird bill that moves the US one step closer to drilling for oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

The Christian Science Monitor (CSM) has a great little piece on the issue here. (I've been getting into this paper. The articles are well researched and reported.)

No one's really sure just how much oil there is under Alaska, but the big oil companies seem to have lost interest in the project. And no one's really sure how much ecological impact this project will have, either.

Bush, however, is mostly concerned with how rising oil prices will "affect the average American family."

How about that average American family? Recent polls - as the CSM article points out - suggests that 73% of Americans prefer conservation tecniques or alternative forms of energy over an increase in domestic oil production. As such, I'm not feeling very good about the Bush adminstration's ability to represent the needs of its people on this one.

If you've ever read this blog before, you know where I stand on eco-issues, and sometimes they aren't always black-and-white. This one, however, seems a no-brainer: oil companies don't think the resources justify the costs, the public doesn't support it, and the ANWR is considered so important to wildlife that even Canada can object to any drilling (as per an international agreement). So why bother sneaking this little tidbit through government? It beats me.

But. as friend and fellow blogger Mike pointed out, these issues are sometimes driven by market forces. Until the US public puts its money where its mouth is and actually starts conserving, buying fuel-efficient vehicles, eating locally, eating less dead animal, using less A/C, just plain 'ol being smarter, then we'll have foolish presidents dropping wells into pristine and never-to-be-seen-again wilderness. Take a look at the picture above.

(here's something kinda funny:, which you would think might be the official government site for the preserve, is actually an oil and oil worker's lobbying website, offering you - among many other things - 10 reasons to drill for oil in the refuge. Good times.)

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


It has been pointed out to me that I am not a Ph.D., nor a prize-winning novelist, nor a pulitzer-type journalist, and that in fact my most recent blog about the Da Vinci Code may have been of an elitist nature.

I try hard not to be an elitist. I really do. I also try hard to enjoy books. And I can't say I didn't enjoy that book. I just wanted to suggest that there are better books out there, and that Dan Brown's writing is not the most refined.

That is all.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Yes, I've read the Da Vinci Code

With the grotesque success of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, a high-ranking Italian cardinal has recently spoken out against the novel, urging Catholics not to read the book and not to buy it.

He claims that the book's unprecedented run as a best-seller merely confirms that anti-Catholicism is an acceptable prejudice.

Pardon me if I snicker at this irony. Seems there is a certain Bishop out in Calgary who is doing a pretty good job of making anti-homosexuality an acceptable prejudice.

As for me, I'd have to agree with that cardinal: don't read the book. Although it presents fascinating ideas, it is written for the average 11-year old - the writing is atrocious. Instead (if you want to find out more about secret societies, the true identity of the holy grail, and Christ's lineage) read The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail, which, while being a bit heavy, does not treat you as if you were a child.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Fractals are cool - this a Mandelbrot set corresponding to the classical Lambda Julia set (so they tell me, anyway). Posted by Hello

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Words of great import

In an authoritarian state it is considered permissible to alter the truth; to rewrite history retrospectively, to distort the news, suppress the true, add the false. Propaganda is substituted for information. In fact, in such a country you are not a citizen possessor of rights but a subject, and as such you owe to the State (and to the dictator who represents it) fanatical loyalty and supine obedience.

-Primo Levi

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Orwell, Newspeak, Double-Think, Clear Skies, and Bush

If you read newspapers, you'll notice that from time to time the phrase Orwellian appears in print. states that Orwellian means:
Of, relating to, or evocative of the works of George Orwell, especially the
satirical novel 1984, which depicts a futuristic totalitarian state.

It was said novel - 1984 - that introduced us to the terms Newspeak and Double-Think.

Newspeak was a language introduced by the novel's ruling government designed to simplify the english language, to remove words, to compress vocabulary so that words and meanings are black or white, up or down, good or evil. Sound familiar? "You're either with us, or you're with the terrorists."

Double-Think was a concept where the government would use a phrase, but the actual meaning of the phrase was contrary to what the words indicated. For example, Bush's Clear Skies Act.

The Clear Skies Act is classic Double-Think. By looking at the title, you would think that Bush wants to reduce air pollution, to clean up the skies. However, the initiative has come under tremendous fire because - for certain pollutants, like heavy-metal mercury - the act actually lessens the restrictions for industrial polluters. Very Orwellian, wouldn't you say?

For a brief run down on the Clear Skies debate, read this article (by the Christian Science Monitor, no less!).

For opposing viewpoints on the act, read

1) the government's pet (non) environmental group, the Environmental Protection Agency
2) those hippes at the Sierra Club

Returning to the original topic, Orwell's works - while originally anti-communist - have tremendous relevance today. I think that an objective reader would find 1984 chilling and urgent when compared to the Republican party's current propaganda campaign. Orwell presents ideas that are scarily similar to the state of thought control tactics in the US at present.

And through the wonders of the internet (what would we do without the internet?), you can actually read Orwell's novel online:

George Orwell - 1984 Posted by Hello

Sunday, March 06, 2005

a harp seal pup - our dog looks an awful lot like this little guy Posted by Hello

a dead harp seal pup Posted by Hello

A bunch of good links on the seal hunt

An interesting exchange

Here's an exchange between a Newf and the Sea Sheperd CS website, which I found amusing. The Newfy doesn't make herself seem very smart:

From: Joan F.
Sent: Wednesday, February 23, 2005 12:55 PM
Subject: question

Here are some questions for Paul Watson, prompted by his reply to a Newfoundland student who asked questions about the seal hunt.

Can you please tell me what is wrong with killing seals? You say there is no humane way to kill them, therefore I assume you think they should never be killed. What about other animals? Is it all right to kill cows, goats, sheep, calves, lambs, chickens, etc. so that people can eat meat and wear leather clothing, carry leather accessories, and sit on leather couches?

Do you eat dead animals -- and if you do, what do you do, wait for them to die of old age? Should the world stop killing animals? Or is it only the seal you are concerned about?

Is the seal a threatened or endangered species? Why didn't you speak up when the cod species was being destroyed? Are the cod not cute enough for you to be bothered about?

Why don't you put some pictures on your website of baby cows and baby sheep and bay hens being slaughtered? I understand baby sheep (lambs to the rest of the world) are killed by slitting their throats? Do you approve of this? Why not fight the sheep industry? Too big? Too strong? Too many city people like eating lamb and wearing lambskin?

Why do you care for animals more than you care for people? Why are you focusing on the poor and the unemployed? Are you afraid of attacking the cattle industry? Is the cattle industry too big and powerful for you to take on? What about the horse industry? I understand they kill and eat horses in France.

And, by the way, the phrase The Maritimes refers to Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. If Paul Watson wants to include Newfoundland in his insults, he will have to say Altantic Provinces, or else use the lower case. If he says "maritime provinces", he would, of course, be including British Columbia.

Educate yourself Paul. Then speak!
Joan F.

Reply to Joan F. in Newfoundland

Dear Joan,

I am a Maritmer. My father was born in New Brunswick and his father was born in Prince Edward Island and his father before him was born in Nova Scotia. My family is 8 generations in the Maritimes so I know what a Maritimer is, Joan. I have also lived in British Columbia, and I can assure you that no one in B.C. refers to themselves as a Maritimer. As for educating myself, I believe that I am thoroughly educated in marine ecology and I have been practicing marine ecological conservation for nearly forty years.

Joan, I am also a vegetarian and our ship the Farley Mowat is a vegetarian ship and I DO condemn the killing of animals – ALL animals for meat. It has no place in the 21st Century and we will not be completely civilized until we end this abomination. We do not put pictures of slaughtered farm animals on our website because we are a marine wildlife conservation organization.

However, we do have links on our website where you can find pictures of slaughtered domestic animals. So the links are there and again you are misinformed. Howard Lyman, who is on our Board of Advisors, is a leading critic of the cattle industry. I myself have been very critical of the meat industry, especially for the incredible usage of fish meal in the production of meat products.

As for your accusation that we care more for animals than for people, I fail to understand the difference. People are animals. One of our directors, Dr. Jerry Vlasak, is a trauma surgeon who saves human lives every day. The ecological law of interdependence dictates that the survival of other species is necessary for the continued survival of our own. I usually find people who tell us that we should be concerned for people instead of animals are people who themselves don't do anything for people. What do you do for people, Joan? I've delivered tons of food, medicine, and supplies to people in Africa and Latin America with my ship. Have you done as much? Why do you make accusations when you do not bother to research the facts?
Yes, the seal is an endangered species. All marine mammals are endangered due to the factors of over-hunting, pollution, heavy metal toxins, global warming, and human over-population. Remember [that] when Jacques Cartier landed in the Atlantic provinces there was no shortage of seals and plenty of cod. The overall seal population at the time was over forty million. It is now less than ten percent of that. Cod fish populations are less than 1%. It was human greed that destroyed the cod – not the seals.

The seal hunt is inhumane and it has upset the entire ecological balance of the Atlantic eco-system. A healthy seal population means a healthy fish population as the interdependence of the numerous species has worked just fine for hundreds of thousands of years. Humans have upset this system. Human predation does not belong within this interdependent eco-system.
Joan, if you would bother to educate yourself on our history you will find that I led a campaign to oppose over-fishing of Cod in 1993, two years before Brian Tobin did his ocean-posing bit. Canada arrested me and put me on trial in St. John's for interfering with Cuban and Spanish drag trawlers.

I was acquitted of the charges. And we will be returning to the Nose and the Tail of the Grand Banks this year to once again protect fish. I was also warning the government of Canada all through the eighties that the cod populations would crash – so I did speak up then as I am speaking up now. I am rarely accused of not speaking up except by those who are uninformed of our activities, like yourself.

We also protect dolphins in Japan, sharks and sea-cucumbers in the Galapagos, albatross and other species from longlines, etc. I can assure you Joan that I have never met a cute sea-cucumber, but we do protect them nevertheless. It appears that you choose to be selective in your criticism of what we defend.

The slaughter of seals in Canada is obscene and I have opposed it for all my life and I will continue to do so for the rest of my life. This one thing has made me ashamed of being a Canadian and therefore it is my responsibility, my duty and my obligation to do everything in my power to oppose it.

I hope that I have answered all your questions. If you have additional questions please contact us again.

Captain Paul Watson
Founder and President
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Can you smell the blood in the air?

(This blog is a little jumbled. I'm not feeling very well today.)

Canada is considered a peace-loving nation. We're applauded and admired for saying 'no' to the Iraq war and to this ridiculous missle defence shield that the US is implementing. We're percieved as a people who don't pick fights. We don't support unjustified, illegal wars. We like gay marriage. We like legalized pot (maybe not, after the RCMP murders). We were ranked by organizations like Amnesty International as one of the most peace-loving nations on earth.

So we like peace.

But once a year, we forget all about peace.

Yes, it is that time of year again. It's time to murder baby seals.

(note that those government guys call it "harvesting")

This "harvesting" is nothing more than an archaic, stupid, and evil practice. It's absurd that Canada still supports and subsidizes the whole industry.

This month, a vessel owned by The Sea Sheperd Conservation Society is sailing out to sea to, once again, try to publicize this horrific practice. They've even got Richard Dean Anderson (McGyver!) meeting them out on the ocean.

Here's their FAQ on the issue.

It's interesting to note that both the DFO and the Sea Sheperd CS say that there is no link from seal hunting to cod stock recovery. DFO's take on the hunt seems to be purely for economic means - because seal pelts are valuable. So it's just another form of the fur industry.