This photo, supplied by Peter Hamilton, shows kayakers who appear to be precariously close to T073B during the whale’s visit to the Comox Harbour. Photo courtesy Life Force Ocean Friends

This photo, supplied by Peter Hamilton, shows kayakers who appear to be precariously close to T073B during the whale’s visit to the Comox Harbour. Photo courtesy Life Force Ocean Friends

Column: Recommendations made in wake of 2018 orca visit to Comox Harbour

Too close for comfort and safety

Peter Hamilton

Special to Black Press

It was a rare experience when a mammal-eating orca, known as Transient T073B and born in 1991, arrived in the Comox Harbour in July and stayed for 10 days. He had just left a group of other orcas.

Was he here for a seal smorgasbord although foraging was not observed with the usual flock of birds picking up the scraps? He was physically healthy but appeared agitated. So it remains his secret.

For the first six days, Lifeforce Ocean Friends was on the water monitoring the orca’s behaviours and boat traffic to protect this orca and public safety until the Department of Fisheries, Oceans and Canadian Coast Guard (DFO) arrived.

His sailboat-turning incident prompted action as it showed an increased threat to public safety and his dangerous habituation. In a similar situation, a young orca named Luna was separated from his family and “played” with boats in Gold River. Unlike lone orca “Springer,” who was reunited with her family, due to “politics” Luna was not, and was killed when cut by a propeller.

VIDEO: Whale plays with boat’s anchor line at Comox Marina

The planned fireworks and boat races in Comox Harbour were major concerns. Would a large gathering of night-time party boaters in the harbour be worth the risk of this orca getting severely injured by a propeller and any accidental collisions with boaters? A fireworks event was postponed because of a whale in a New Zealand harbour this July. But there was another plan for Comox.

Over 10 years ago, Lifeforce had realized that our orca playback equipment would be valuable to attract orcas away from oil spills. Once the orca(s) approach, the equipment is shut down and removed from the water. They travel on in search of the “orca.” In the past, I presented my studies to scientific meetings and a U.S. government oil spill response meeting in 2007. So I urged DFO to try it. DFO carried out their playback plans and problems were resolved as T073B was last seen heading to open ocean.

The Lifeforce report “Too Close for Comfort and Safety!” reviews the good and bad behaviours of those on the water. As a result, there will be positive steps taken for improved boater education and safety.

First, Comox HMCS Quadra base for sea cadet training had never provided wildlife information in courses. The cadets were continuously getting way to close to the orca. Lifeforce proposed that sea cadets should be taught about the Marine Mammal Regulations and the penalties; be educated about how life-threatening it is to orcas, humpbacks and other marine wildlife who are hit by props, entangled in fishing and die; be aware that collisions have also seriously injured people; and be those to protect the future of these endangered orcas and oceans.

Lifeforce provided requested initial education information to Comox staff and Lifeforce will be looking at a more comprehensive course next summer across Canada.

Secondly, Lifeforce has contacted the local Comox Canadian Power Squadron to get Marine Mammal Regulations and boating safety around marine wildlife included in their courses. We will also be contacting others nationally.

Thirdly, there is further evidence that Lifeforce research used in passive playbacks should be a priority for oil response and other environmental hazards. Presently, governments list seal bombs, helicopters and banging pipes called “oikomi” by Japanese dolphin killers. At the meeting in 2007, a former aquarium orca capturer advised against using seal bombs because their use of seal bombs probably resulted in the orcas’ deafness. In addition, since dolphins are highly sensitive to sound the “oikomi” banging of pipes is highly stressful – dolphins have gone into shock and beached themselves.

Lessons to be learnt

After decades of aquarium and zoo industries’ self-proclaimed “conservation,” a diversity of wildlife was not saved. There has been a 60per cent decline in wildlife populations from 1970 to 2014. Captive wildlife prisons gave a false sense of security. All is not well in the animal kingdom. Billions of dollars should have been put towards true education preserving natural habitats.

Recently, Canadian politicians voted against an emergency order under the Species at Risk Acts that would have brought immediate solutions. This includes moratoriums on fishing to rebuild the broken ocean food chain and increase enforcement and limits to boat traffic. Orcas have been studied to death with years of cumulative experiments that have harmed them and failed to save them. Read more at Save the Orca Families Now! (https://bit.ly/2z7Fnul)

We need a green economy or say goodbye to the orcas and ocean life!

Peter Hamilton is the founder of Lifeforce, a non-profit Vancouver based ecology organization that was formed in 1981 to raise public awareness of the interrelationship between people, animals, and the environment.

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

Just Posted

Cumberland is considering downtown densification proposals, and with that comes questions around parking, among other things. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Water bottling ban, parking key changes for Cumberland zoning

Bylaw on amendments still need adoption following March 2 hearing

Arzeena Hamir, working her booth at the Comox Valley Farmers Market. LUSH Valley was recognized last month as a partner of the year by the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets. Photo by Bill Jorgensen
LUSH Valley recognized for collaboration with Comox Valley Farmers’ Market

They won Partner of the Year award by the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets

Chelsea Harry was last seen Feb. 21. Photo via Comox Valley RCMP
Comox Valley RCMP seeking help locating a missing woman

Missing person last seen in Courtenay on Feb. 21

A Coast Range Cannabis store has been approved for the Crown Isle Shopping Centre in Courtenay. Photo submitted
Courtenay council approves seventh cannabis retailer

Coast Range Cannabis to open second store in the Comox Valley

A map of the Village Forest Lands near Cumberland. Image, Village of Cumberland
Cumberland adopts forest management direction statement

Less detailed than full plan, documents sets out decision-making for village-owned land

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

The City of Duncan will implement a new pilot project targeting vandalism this spring. (File photo)
Graffiti trouble? Duncan will give you the brush and the paint to remove it

Initiative based on a successful project to protect Port Alberni from unwanted spray paint

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ B.C. housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

This was the scene outside North Saanich’s Parkland Secondary School after an attempted but unsuccessful break-and-enter into the school torched an ATM inside of it. Sidney/North Saanich RCMP did not make any arrests and currently lack suspects as the investigation continues. Members of the public who may have witnessed something or possess other information can contact police at (250) 656-3931 or to Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS. (Submitted)
Money to burn: burglars torch North Saanich high school ATM

Police dogs searched the exterior and interior of the school after early morning break-and-enter

The first of Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s long-range maritime patrol aircraft—the Dash-8—becomes operational. (Photo supplied by PAL Aerospace)
Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s new De Havilland Dash-8-100 long-range surveillance air craft is capable of staying aloft for eight to 10 hours for a variety of missions up and down the B.C. coast. (Photo supplied by PAL Aerospace)
New plane will double DFO’s surveillance capacity in B.C.

The Dash-8 will fly out of Campbell River for enforcement, conservation missions

A recently published study out of UBC has found a link between life satisfaction levels and overall health. (Pixabay)
Satisfied with life? It’s likely you’re healthier for it: UBC study

UBC psychologists have found those more satisfied with their life have a 26% reduced risk of dying

Most Read