James Whitehead’s 75-foot former Canadian Forces Navy vessel, Seaquarium’s Shame. (Submitted by James Whitehead)

‘Orcas are not for entertainment:’ Activist plans to disrupt West Coast whale watching

Victoria man plans to demonstrate with his 75-foot vessel Seaquarium’s Shame in the Salish Sea

A longtime environmental activist plans to sail a boat of shame on the Salish Sea in an effort to end commercial whale watching.

“The Salish Sea is not a circus [and] orcas are not for entertainment,” says James Whitehead, the boat captain and a performance artist in Victoria. “They are an extremely rare and precious animal.”

READ ALSO: Bigg’s orcas in the Salish Sea point to shifting habitat of resident killer whales

Whitehead plans to protest with a 75-foot former Canadian Forces Navy vessel he has named the Seaquarium’s Shame. Painted red with images of orcas swimming along the base, the boat aims to disrupt commercial whale-watching on the West Coast.

“It’s scientifically documented that orcas change their behaviour from socializing and foraging to [travelling] in the presence of whale watching boats,” he says.

“How are the whales compensated for their daily performances for the whale-watching industry’s services? The whale-watching industry is turning the Salish Sea into a circus. A seat on a whale-watching boat is like a seat in a seaquarium.”

READ ALSO: New regulations increase boating distance from killer whales

READ ALSO: Education first step in Canada’s new southern resident killer whale conservation mandates

Activist Jim White says a seat on a whale watching boat “is a seat on the stands of the Miami Seaquarium.” (Photo Courtesy of Jim White)

Whitehead points to the federal government’s interim order that prohibited vessels from approaching any killer whale within a 400-metre distance. That order adding distance ended Oct. 31, reverting to previous rules.

The Pacific Whale Watch Association had 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. Other organizations have also limited the time they spend following orcas.

Whitehead says the changes only show that whale-watching companies are aware of their impact, and any form of whale watching is going harm both residents and transients.

He also hopes to bring attention to Tokitae, also known as Lolita, a southern resident captured in Puget Sound and taken to the Miami Seaquarium 49 years ago – where she still lives.

Whitehead says the 53-year-old animal is rarely counted as one of the remaining southern residents.

“Tokitae is the last surviving wild orca in North America still held captive,” Whitehead says. He wants the attraction to work with an Indigenous tribe in northern Washington State to send the whale back home.

READ ALSO: 30-year-old orca dies at SeaWorld’s Orlando park

READ ALSO: Three southern resident killer whales declared dead plunging population to 73

Whitehead says he knows his approach is unconventional, and while he won’t disclose when or where his boat will appear, he hopes its presence will get people to reconsider the act of whale viewing.

“Would it be okay to chase a bear in an SUV so long as you were 200 metres away from it?” he poses. “This is a different approach to this issue than what you normally see.

“I’m coming at this as a citizen with a deep emotional connection to the ocean. I think it brings it down to a very human scale … if we really love our coast and our environment, it’s not to hard to do that respectfully and not love it to death.”



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

Follow us on Instagram
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

Just Posted

CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of Oct. 18

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Abbotsford’s Jake Virtanen, Vancouver Canucks playing waiting game for new contract

Yale Hockey Academy product files for arbitration with Canucks, hearing set for Oct. 28

Schnitzelz restaurant returns to Abbotsford

Fried meat establishment moves from Aldergrove to Abbotsford

Abbotsford student dies after medical incident in class

Rick Hansen Secondary School offering additional counselling for students who require it

$93,000 in COVID-19 emergency support available to Abbotsford charities

Applications now open for grants through community foundation

167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings

Wreckage of decades-old plane crash discovered on mountain near Harrison Lake

A team of Sts’ailes Community School students helped discover the twisted metal embedded in a glacier

ERT, VPD response to White Rock home connected to homicide: police

Search underway in the 15800-block of Prospect Crescent

‘I am not leaving without my son,’ says mother of missing Manning Park hiker

Family and friends continue to search for Jordan Naterer, after official efforts suspended

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Bear kills llama on Vancouver Island, prompting concerns over livestock

Officers could not track the bear they feel may not fear humans

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

B.C. dad pledges to appeal quashed call for mandatory masks, distancing in schools

Bernard Trest and Gary Shuster challenged health, education ministries’ return-to-school plan

Most Read