Whale-watching company claims navy conducted blasting despite orca warning
CTV Vancouver Island
Published Friday, September 1, 2017 6:57PM PDT
Workers in Victoria's whale-watching industry are calling for change from the federal government, saying the Canadian navy is conducting blasting that is impacting orcas.
A confrontation between a whale-watching tour boat captain and a naval official was caught on camera Thursday roughly 30 kilometres southeast of Victoria.
“You just set an explosive off two seconds ago and there are killer whales right there,” SpringTide Whale Watching’s Mark Williams is heard saying. “There’s killer whales behind us there.”
Another captain for SpringTide Whale Watching said the boat was coming around the corner of Bentnick Island, the site of a naval explosive test range, when there was a huge boom.
“It made the water shutter,” said Cam Ontkean.
Williams and other whale-watching companies have sounded off about naval blasting on Bentnick Island before.
A similar incident in early August prompted the two sides to come together and try to improve communication about killer whale safety.
But Williams said the navy has no excuse for the incident on Thursday.
“There was no confusion, there were 100 per cent whales there and we had been speaking to them for hours before,” he said. “There was no excuse this time.”
The Victoria whale-watching fleet claims it called the navy at around noon telling officials orcas were in the area.
Despite that, captains say detonations shook the island at around 3 and 3:30 p.m. with whales near shore.
“Passengers get a little freaked out and we go on with our day,” said Ontkean. “Whales possibly have lifelong damage.”
The navy says in both cases, whales and boats were at safe distances – at least 500 metres from the blast zone – but captains claim an image taken right after a blast shows how close the whales were.
“At no point was anyone in danger in the events that occurred yesterday, and I believe that the protocols were followed and that the navy did nothing wrong,” said Lt. Andre Bard.
The fleet is calling it a troubling pattern and is calling for action from the top down.
“We appeal to our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to help, not hurt, killer whales,” said SpringTide owner Dan Kukat. “Yesterday, killer whales got hurt.”