Date: March 31, 2007
Author: Bruce Ward
Origin: Ottawa Citizen

Phil Jenkins has a simple goal. He wants people to have accurate information about the seal hunt based on science, not emotion.

So when Mr. Jenkins saw Sir Paul McCartney and Heather Mills McCartney seated at the front of the Dash 8 on a flight from Halifax to Charlottetown, he made his move.

"There were no security or handlers with them. I thought, 'Well, what's the worst that could happen? They can just say, No thanks, we don't want to talk.' "

But his moxie, or sheer gall, paid off. When Mr. Jenkins introduced himself as the Department of Fisheries and Oceans spokesman for the seal hunt, Sir Paul told him to have a seat.

"The way I characterize that conversation is, they both seemed to have very filtered and incomplete information," Mr. Jenkins said yesterday in an interview from Charlottetown.

"I found Paul to be much more thoughtful and open about things I said. Heather was more, I guess I'd call it evangelical, really on a mission and very much message tracked."

Mr. Jenkins was characteristically blunt in chatting up the McCartneys when the in-flight encounter took place early last March.

"I said, 'You're going to pose with pretty little whitecoats that are really cute. But if you really want to know the seal hunt, get out and talk to people. Go out and visit the villages were people want to stay and live but have very few opportunities to make a living.'

"Had I had Paul by myself, I might have been able to makes some inroads," he laughed.

The ex-Beatle may not have been convinced, but Mr. Jenkins clearly made an impression. Sir Paul mentioned him by name that night on CNN's Larry King Live.

"I told the McCartneys, 'You're gonna be helicoptered in, do a photo-op, and you're gonna be gone.' Sure enough that's exactly what happened."

The Humane Society of the United States, which had brought over the famous couple, were furious with Mr. Jenkins for intercepting their star guests.

"They were none too happy. They just don't want to hear the facts."

Mr. Jenkins was in Charlottetown yesterday to deal with media needs and demands as Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn announced the 2007 harp seal total allowable catch will be set at 270,000.

Groups that oppose the hunt tend to ignore the people who depend on this resource for their livelihoods and have few other choices, said Mr. Jenkins.

"You're standing on a dock. You've got a rock behind you and five and a half million seals in front of you. You want to stay in your community and not move to Fort McMurray, Alta. Your choice is using an abundant sustainable resource in a respectful way, or move."

Look, Mr. Jenkins said, no one is saying the seal hunt is a thing of beauty.
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