A group of whale watchers observe a humpback whale breaching in the Salish Sea. (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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

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

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

Just Posted

Greater Victoria woman creates ‘call list’ for seniors to tackle loneliness

Call list allows seniors to have some friendly conversation during isolating times

Report looks at COVID-19’s impact on violence in the family

Police across Canada reported almost 100,000 cases of intimate partner violence in 2018

Saanich’s Shelbourne corridor work set to start despite pandemic

Municipal work is deemed an essential service, keeping the long-term project on track

Sidney senior welcomes outreach phone calls from charity

A long-time user of Sidney’s SHOAL Centre, praises Beacon Community Services

Mental Health: Planning for a crisis

Crisis planning lays out a blueprint in case hard times hit

COVID-19 world update: 6.6 million U.S. jobless claims; alcohol sales banned in Bangkok

Comprehensive digest of coronavirus news items from around the world

B.C. sorting medical equipment sales, donation offers for COVID-19

Supply hub has call out for masks, gowns, coronavirus swabs

B.C. records five more deaths due to COVID-19, 45 new cases

A total of 838 people have recovered from the virus

Major crimes investigating sudden death of North Okanagan child

The 8 year old was flown to Kelowna General Hospital and died hours later

Easter Bunny added to B.C.’s list of essential workers

Premier John Horgan authorizes bunny to spread “eggs-ellent cheer” throughout province

Travellers returning to B.C. must have self-isolation plan or face quarantine: Horgan

Premier John Horgan says forms must be filled out by travellers

More than 400 animals have been adopted amid pandemic: B.C. SPCA

People are taking this time of social distancing to find a loyal companion through the animal welfare group

VIDEO: More than 85 people displaced by Campbell River apartment fire

Traffic is being diverted around Dogwood Street and 9th Avenue

Most Read