Eagle Wing Tours operates out of Victoria and is a member of the Pacific Whale Watch Association. (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)

Pacific Whale Watch Association ‘not impressed’ by Victoria activist’s protest

Association spokesperson says to focus on issue of salmon population depletion instead

The Pacific Whale Watch Association is looking to communicate with a Victoria activist who is sailing a boat of shame on the Salish Sea in an effort to end commercial whale watching.

“We’re not impressed,” said Kelley Balcomb-Bartok, a spokesperson for the association. “He missed the opportunity to communicate with us about what the association is doing on behalf of the whales and to come up with best practices.”

James Whitehead, who is using the name Jim White for his demonstration, is a captain and performance artist who plans to protest commercial whale watching with a 75-foot former Canadian Forces Navy vessel that he has named the Seaquarium’s Shame.

The vessel has been painted red with representations of the southern resident killer whale spirit pod at the base. A photograph of it also shows what appears to be purple and orange smoke bombs being set off on it.

READ ALSO: ‘Orcas are not for entertainment:’ Victoria activist plans to disrupt West Coast whale watching

Whitehead said the changes whale watching companies made after an interim order – prohibiting vessels from approaching any killer whale within a 400-metre distance – handed down from the government, proved that the companies are aware of the impacts their boats can have on whales. Following the order, the Pacific Whale Watch association signed an agreement to stop offering tours of Southern Resident orcas, with a caveat that they could approach transient orcas to a distance of up to 200 metres.

Eagle Wing Tours operates out of Victoria and is a member of the Pacific Whale Watch Association. (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)

The order lifted on Oct. 31 and Balcomb-Bartok said the association is back to offering tours of the Southern Resident orcas, keeping a 200-metre distance from them.

“We’ve always had a position of showing our respect for the whales and many Canadian vessels decided to simply look elsewhere with the abundant transient whales out there and the humpback comeback that’s going on,” Balcomb-Bartok said.

In fact, the association considers Whitehead to be a threat and added that while the association tests its vessels for sand and exhaust, it does not know what Whitehead is doing to test his vessel.

“If he’s going to come out and protest in front of whale watch boats one would assume he would be in the vicinity of the whales,” Balcomb-Bartok said.

READ ALSO: Education first step in Canada’s new souther resident killer whale conservation mandates

He also noted the association has been involved in working with Canadian and U.S. governing bodies to establish best practices for whale watching. The association collects data on the whales and uses an internal app to let vessels, researchers and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans know about the location of whales or any other concerns as well.

Balcomb-Bartok said the real threat to killer whales at the moment is the depletion of salmon populations and said Whitehead should be focusing on that rather than trying to stop commercial whale watching companies.

“Southern residents are dying off becase there aren’t fish to eat…if we kill salmon we’re going to kill the whales,” Balcomb-Bartok said. “The interim order was well-intentioned but it was a distraction from this real issue.”

If the association has a chance to talk with Whitehead, Balcomb-Bartok said he’d be getting a compliment on his vessel’s paint-job.

“We see he has a spirit to help whales so that’s wonderful. He’s just misguided and misinformed,” Balcomb-Bartok said. “Our story is really one about professional captains, passionate naturalists and people who love these whales and have a desire to protect and preserve them.”

-With files from Nina Grossman

shalu.mehta@goldstreamgazette.com


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

A group of whale watchers observe a humpback whale breaching in the Salish Sea. (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)

A group of whale watchers observe a humpback whale breaching in the Salish Sea. (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)

Just Posted

UPDATE: Northbound lanes re-open along Malahat after small rockslide near Goldstream

Drivers asked to use caution, clean-up crews have finished on-site

Port Alberni language pole becomes ‘spiritual journey’

Funding shortfall could prove to be saving grace for project

Fines bring an end to Tofino’s controversial Poole’s Land community

Michael Poole is selling the roughly 20-acre property.

CARE column: Cold winter season terrifying for stray cats

Kittens Starsky and Hutch will have a warm foster home this winter.

Tofino’s top engineer leaves district amidst massive sewage treatment project

District office currently working through $60 million sewage treatment plant

Teen with cancer whose viral video urged Canadians to vote has died, uncle tweets

Maddison Yetman had been looking forward to voting in her first federal election since junior high school

Rowing Canada, UVic investigate celebrated coach for harassment, abuse

Lily Copeland says she felt intimidated and trapped by Williams

Cleanup in the works after tanker truck fire leads to oil spill in B.C.’s Peace region

The province said the majority of the spilled oil likely burned away in the fire.

Fisherman missing near Lake Cowichan’s Shaw Creek

Family is asking for everyone and anyone to keep their eyes open,… Continue reading

BC VIEWS: Action needed on healthcare workplace violence

While we’ve been talking about it, the number of B.C. victims has only grown

Closing arguments begin in B.C. case launched in 2009 over private health care

Dr. Day said he illegally opened the Cambie Surgery Centre in 1996 in order to create more operating-room time

MacLean says “Coach’s Corner is no more” following Cherry’s dismissal from Hockey Night

Cherry had singled out new immigrants in for not honouring Canada’s veterans and fallen soldiers

MacKinnon powers Avs to 5-4 OT win over Canucks

Vancouver battled back late to pick up single point

Port Alberni mom takes school district to court over Indigenous smudging, prayer in class

Candice Servatius, who is an evangelical Christian, is suing School District 70

Most Read