A controversial online video that has been shared more than 11,000 times appears to show a baby seal on a fishing vessel being taunted by Nova Scotia fishermen.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans says three people have been charged as a result of alleged mistreatment of a marine animal.

“Fisheries quickly mobilized to conduct an investigation, as a result charges were laid (on Wednesday),” said Doug Wentzell of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

A photo is also making the rounds showing one of the crew posing with the dead animal. Seal researcher Sara Iverson says even with a licence, it is illegal to kill baby seals with white coats in Canada.

“It should not be wet, should still be nursing, may have been lost in a storm or abandoned, or wandered off,” said Iverson.

Mark MacKenzie is one of the accused. He declined an on-camera interview, but tells CTV News he is the captain of the vessel, that the seal got tangled in a hook, and he and his crew put it out of its misery.

He says they were not taunting the animal, but examining it, and that he posted the video online because he thought it was interesting.

Yarmouth resident Caitlyn Buchanan is organizing a rally at the DFO office in Yarmouth for Friday.

“We have to act now. There is no time to wait,” Buchanan said. “I want their licences to be revoked. I don't want fines.”

Several members of the community brought the video to the attention of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

“I take this very seriously,” said Wentzell. “Within a couple of days we moved from being informed to investigating to charges.”

The department will not say anything about the possible repercussions, only that it will be for the courts to decide.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kayla Hounsell.