Nova Scotia

Yarmouth-area fishermen charged after video shows seal being taunted, poked and kicked

DFO enforcement officers have charged three fishermen from Yarmouth County for allegedly mistreating a seal.

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DFO was alerted to a video posted online that showed a seal on board a fishing boat while someone taunts and pokes the animal with a buoy. (Facebook)

Three Yarmouth County fishermen have been charged for the alleged mistreatment of a mammal after a video posted online showed a seal being taunted, poked and kicked while on board a fishing boat.

The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced the charges Wednesday after being alerted by the public to the video.

The video was posted on Mark Allan MacKenzie's Facebook page until it was recently removed. MacKenzie, along with Jay Alexander Jenkins and Brendon Dougles James Porter are facing three Fisheries Act charges.

Jenkins and Porter are also accused of fishing without a registration card. 

DFO files charges against Yarmouth fishermen for alleged mistreatment of a seal. 1:35

A photo also posted online showed Jay Jenkins holding the seal, its face bloodied. Another video on MacKenzie's Facebook page from another date shows someone beating halibut with a gaff.

'OK, let's kill it'

Doug Wentzell, the department's regional director of fisheries management, said the alleged incident happened earlier this week.

He said fisheries officers in the area received a number of phone calls from concerned residents regarding the video of the seal.

Doug Wentzell is regional director of fisheries management for DFO. (CBC)

The video, which runs less than two minutes, shows someone poking the seal in the mouth and throat with a buoy while laughter is heard in the background.

"Bark, bitch, bark," a voice can be heard saying as the seal recoils and tries to bat the buoy away with its flipper.

"Good seal," another voice chimes in. "Speak, boy."

Midway through the video, someone off camera can be heard saying, "OK, let's kill it."  

As the person on camera begins lightly kicking at the seal's head, someone suggests getting a "big machete," noting "it would do a number on its head."

Fisheries officials said the seal was killed, though that cannot be seen in the video.

Penalties for convictions vary

Wentzell said the charges are related to appropriate treatment of marine mammals and treatment of incidental catch on board vessels. If there are convictions, he said the penalties are wide ranging so it's difficult to say what could happen.

"It really depends on the process," he said.

He encouraged people to speak out and notify the department anytime they see something like this.

DFO was alerted to a photo that showed Jay Jenkins holding a seal with its face bloodied. (Facebook)

Brianna Swimm knows one of the three accused and saw the videos of the seal and halibut online. She said she was disgusted by the callousness of the action.

"How can someone do that, especially just posting it and showing the world?" she said.

Swimm, whose father is a fisherman, said the actions in the video are against the proper practices fishermen should follow.

'Important not to treat this as normal'

Yarmouth native Caitlin Buchanan, who said she's related to Jenkins, was troubled that anyone would brag about such actions and flaunt them online. She's organizing a rally for Friday in Yarmouth to show the actions of those in the video don't represent most fishermen.

"From what I can see, the majority of fishermen do not stand with these few individuals," she said via online message exchanges.

"Yarmouth prides itself on its fishing industry and it's not fair to have to wear these disgraceful actions. It's important not to treat this as normal."

Previous convictions

MacKenzie has previous fisheries convictions.

In 2009 he received almost $25,000 in fines for possessing lobsters bearing eggs, mutilated lobsters and other seafood. He was required to install a vessel monitoring system for one year.

A call to MacKenzie Wednesday night was not immediately returned.

The three accused are due in Yarmouth provincial court on April 3.

About the Author

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca

With files from Angela MacIvor and Carolyn Ray