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Re: Did Everyone Helped Or Harmed This Orca?
posted on August 3, 2018

Re: Did Everyone Helped Or Harmed This Orca?

The lone 27 year old Transient T073B present in Comox Harbour since July 23 has left during the late afternoon on August 2. Fisheries and Oceans Canada has been successful in attracting him out of the Harbour utilizing acoustic playback equipment. He was seen heading north off Cape Lazo at approximately 3PM.

Lifeforce had discussed with DFO using sound attractors as the best option. As part of Lifeforce’s Peter Hamilton research he had found that passive sound attractors if used under legally required permits could attract orcas away from oil spills and other dangers such as this Comox Harbour situation.

Lifeforce has studied orca behaviour and travel patterns for over 20 years. We continue to publish education guides. We monitored the behavior of this orca and reported our findings to DFO.

Over the past 10 days thousands of people have been fortunate to enjoy and learn about this wild orca. It has brought rare lifetime experiences but also posed serious threats of injuries to the orca. What lessons have we learned to be more respectful of this orca and others in the future?

1. Some misguided locals claimed that all boaters were being respectful and there were no problems. The facts are that there were numerous violations of boater harassment reported to DFO resulting in their onsite enforcement.

2. Lifeforce Ocean Friends conducted our Lifewatch Boater Awareness Program for six days until DFO started enforcement. We documented numerous harassments of the orca by a continuous onslaught of boaters, kayakers and paddle borders. Extreme violations included boaters speeding towards him every time he surfaced well within the 200 meters and boaters repeatedly circling and driving over him for periods up to 40 minutes.

3. T073B may have had both physical and psychological health problems. Although he looked healthy there could have been other issues. He was exhibiting signs of stress. He was agitated and protected himself by forceful tail slaps towards boaters unlike calmer slaps for other behaviours.

4. The sailboat turning incident was not funny as posted by some “locals” 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 another lone orca, “Springer”, who was reunited with her family due to “politics” Luna was not and killed by a propeller hit.

5. Fireworks and Boat Races in Comox Harbour
It was rather unbelievable that anyone would think that this could be safe. Would a large gathering of night time boaters for hours for a 15 minute fireworks display in the Harbour be worth the risk of him getting severely injured by a propeller cut and any other accidental collision with boaters?

The Comox Harbour is too small to restrict a large number of boats to any area and therefore would be in violation of the regulations including staying 200 meters from the orca. In addition, at all times the boat traffic in and out of the Harbour should have been restricted to the Goose Spit side (as long as the orca continues to stay on the other side) and a Slow Speed Warning implemented.

6. Positive Conclusion with Sea Cadets
During the Lifeforce Boater Awareness actions we found numerous violations with the local the HMCS Quadra sea cadet program. It was incredible that we found out that Marine Wildlife and Regulations information were not part of their training. As I had hoped they contacted Lifeforce today to work together to educate staff and students.

So how did most humans do to respect and help this orca? Many failed!

Ocean Friends.