The transient killer whale that has been swimming near the Comox Marina since July 23 has begun to “play” with boats in the water.
Ara Stevenson captured a video on Sunday of the orca grabbing a sailboat’s anchor rope and dragging it through the water.
She said they had just come in from fishing when the orca arrived in the area and took hold of the anchor rope of a nearby sailboat. They turned off their engine and watched as T073B pulled the boat into the side of another.
“It did crash into it,” said Stevenson. “The big boat had thrown a dinghy in between the boats.”
She said she has lived on the island for awhile but has never seen anything like this.
“The matter of this orca grabbing the anchor rope of a sailboat is a very serious concern,” said Peter Hamilton, founder of Lifeforce Ocean Friends. “This type of behaviour resulted in the death of an orca. A lone orca, ‘Luna,’ separated from his family would ‘play’ with boats in Gold River… He was killed by a boat propeller.”
Luna was killed by a tugboat in 2006 after showing playful behaviour near the vessel.
Jared Towers, killer whale researcher with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, said he understands why the comparison is being made between T073B and Luna, but there are significant differences. Luna was a young orca, alone for a long period of time, whereas this orca is full-grown and has only been alone for a week.
“We’re obviously concerned about the killer whale,” said Towers. “But if the whale spends more time in the area and interacts more with the environment there, that’s also a concern to human safety.”
Towers said the more the orca is habituated with its environment, the greater the possibility of it injuring itself by becoming entangled or getting cut by the bottom of a boat. He adds that a whale of this size can also cause significant property damage, and if it continues to act this way around boats, could pose a large risk to the people on board.
All boaters, kayakers and paddlers must stay at least 200 metres away from the orca for both its safety and theirs.
Hamilton advises that if boaters find themselves too close to the orca, they should shut off their engine until the orca leaves the area. He added that boats should enter and exit the marina at slow speeds.
DFO officers are on scene, ensuring that boaters are staying the minimum distance from the orca.
If any boaters are seen closer than 200 metres to the orca, concerns can be directed to the DFO at 1-800-465-4336.