CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Michelle Rodriguez called hugging a harp seal off the coast of P.E.I. yesterday an “incredibly moving experience”.
“It was the most beautiful feeling in the world,” Rodriguez told The Guardian in an exclusive interview.
The Hollywood actress, along with a crew from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, travelled out to the ice floes in the Gulf of St. Lawrence yesterday by helicopters in search of newborn harp seals.
Rodriguez said it was her own conscience that led her to take part in this organization.
She first got involved with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society about seven years ago after meeting the founder, Paul Watson, in Cannes at the film festival.
“I just can’t sit around, you know, and make money and be a happy person if I’m not getting involved and trying to make a change or a difference. I feel like I can’t live a happy life that way, I have to do something.”
Although Rodriguez got a chance to have this unforgettable experience, the reality of what the seals are facing hit home.
“I was really sad that there weren’t as many as there’s supposed to be out there,” said Rodriguez.
Brigitte Breau, who is with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, said when they first started planning this campaign about six months ago, it was going to be the traditional raising awareness trip to stop the hunt.
However after following satellite weather maps, they discovered there was no ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
“We realized there was a story bigger than the slaughter of seals because without ice the seals can’t repopulate. And combine the hunt with this ecological disaster that is happening, how are they going to survive as a species?”
Breau said the crew struggled to find seals, let alone ice thick enough to land their helicopters. She added that on one trip this past week they did find one small nursery of seals, consisting of a couple of thousand, off the coast of Cape Breton.
Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice, also took part in the expedition. This marked the 10th anniversary of her first trip to the Gulf of St. Lawrence to see the seals. However, she called this one “disheartening” after she, too, observed the “huge diminution” in the ice pack.
“We are flying over the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and that should be solid packed ice and it’s mostly all open water and a little bit of slush, certainly not the kind that seals need to give birth on and raise their young on for the first three weeks.”
On her trip, Labchuk said they saw only a few hundred pups.
“I’ve been out in past years…there is miles and miles of seals, all you can see is seals,” said Labchuk. “This year…maybe it was a couple of miles across.”
Labchuk urges people to contact their local MP to stop commercial seal hunting.
“I think the science backs up the idea that we can’t keep setting a quota of 400,000 seals when there is likely a 100 per cent pup mortality in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.”
Rodriguez, who noted the seals are now being killed by two forces —hunters and climate change, feels the Canadian government and society as a whole need to take steps to ease the burden on this species before it gets too late.
“If you can reduce quota, reduce the quota, if you can ban it, ban it - whatever will help for these creatures to survive.”
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is for the abolishment of the commercial sealing industry, not the hunt that is livelihood for many Inuit people of Canada.