Fishermen in the French islands of St-Pierre-Miquelon cut the mooring ropes of anti-sealing activist Paul Watson's ship Friday after hearing Watson make disparaging comments about the deaths this week of four hunters.
Meanwhile, Green party Leader Elizabeth May is cutting ties of her own with Watson, saying his most recent comments are extreme.
The Sea Shepherd Society was attempting to refuel its vessel Farley Mowat on Friday morning when fishermen confronted it at the wharf in St-Pierre, the main community in the French islands south of Newfoundland.
"We don't accept those kinds of people in St-Pierre," fisherman Carl Beaupertuis told CBC News Friday.
"We cut the rope and let the boat go…. If they want to come back I tell you this time there's going to be some violence, 'cause we won't let him back in the harbour. No way."
Speaking later with CBC News in Halifax, Watson — who had already left the islands Friday morning by air — described the incident as ugly.
"This morning a bunch of fishermen attacked our ship, and they cut the bowlines with an axe," said Watson. "The police did nothing."
Watson said a crew member threw a smoke grenade on the wharf to disperse the crowd and that the ship was able to head out to sea.
Beaupertuis said at least two crew members of the Farley Mowat had been left behind.
Comments broadcast on radio station
Fishermen were infuriated when they heard comments by Watson that were broadcast on a local radio station on Friday morning.
In a statement this week, Watson said, "The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society recognizes that the deaths of four sealers is a tragedy but Sea Shepherd also recognizes that the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of seal pups is an even greater tragedy."
'I can't think of anything that defines helplessness and fear more than a seal pup on the ice that can't swim or escape as it is approached by some cigarette smoking ape with a club.' —Paul Watson
Watson was responding to the deaths of three sealers, who died Saturday when their trawler capsized as it was being towed by an icebreaker. A fourth fisherman is believed to have died.
Watson described sealers as "sadistic baby killers" and "vicious killers who are now pleading for sympathy because some of their own died while engaged in a viciously brutal activity."
Watson said Friday he believed the incident was "instigated by Newfoundlanders."
Watson and his crew have tangled with Canadian authorities and sealers since the hunt in the Gulf of St. Lawrence opened in late March. Watson claims a federal ship rammed the Farley Mowat, while the government vigorously denies the allegation.
"One of the sealers was quoted as saying that he felt absolutely helpless as he watched the boat sink with sealers onboard," Watson said in a news release issued Wednesday.
"I can't think of anything that defines helplessness and fear more than a seal pup on the ice that can't swim or escape as it is approached by some cigarette smoking ape with a club."
No choice but to quit honorary role: May
Watson's comments prompted May, who has known Watson for many years, to resign her post on the advisory committee of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
"There's a point at which someone's comments are just so completely repugnant," May told CBC News Friday.
"We're just reeling from the loss of these men at sea, and whether you support the seal hunt or not, you want all the seal hunters to get home to their families safely."
Watson said Friday he is not apologetic about his comments.
"I don't pretend to not be controversial. I'm here to rock the boat, to make waves, to make people think, you know, to provoke. That's what I do."
May has spoken out about Watson's group in the past. She threatened to resign three years ago after a Sea Shepherd Conservation board member, Dr. Jerry Vlasak, advocated assassination as a means of responding to vivisectionists. Vlasak was quickly removed from the board.
May said Watson has a history of making "very colourful remarks," but she said this week's comments were personal and insulting attacks against individuals, and that she could not tolerate having her name appear in an even an honorary capacity with Watson's organization.
"I'm not embarrassed, but I'm saddened — very saddened," she said.
Funerals for the three sealers will take place Saturday afternoon in the Îles de la Madeleine.