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

Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File Photo)
RANCH MUSINGS: Sometimes there are great moments of remembering

“That is not to suggest that we can live harmlessly, or strictly at our own expense:

Greg Sabatino photo - Williams Lake Tribune
SLIDESHOW: Nesika celebrates Halloween with costume parade, dance

Classes took turns within their own cohorts taking part in each event

The Williams Lake Skating Club is thrilled to introduce new coach Brenda Boulin (right) to its team. Boulin joins head coach Joanne Macnair (centre) and coach Breanna Davidson. (Photo submitted)
Williams Lake Skating Club welcomes new coach to team

WLSC longtime head coach Joanne Macnair is thrilled to welcome Brenda Boulin back home

While the weather in Williams Lake wreaked havoc on roads and flooded homes this week, the swans didn’t seem to mind it at all. (David Fait photo)
Waterlogged: Williams Lake downright soggy after days of rain

October has seen an unusual amount of rain fall in the Cariboo this year

Physical distancing signs are a common sight in B.C. stores and businesses. THE CANADIAN PRESS
272 more COVID-19 cases for B.C., outbreak at oil sands project

Three new health care outbreaks, three declared over

This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

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

Cpl. Nathan Berze, media officer for the Mission RCMP, giving an update on the investigation at 11:30 a.m., Oct. 30. Patrick Penner photo.
VIDEO: Prisoner convicted of first-degree murder still at large from Mission Institution

When 10 p.m. count was conducted, staff discovered Roderick Muchikekwanape had disappeared

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

Health care employees take extensive precautions when working with people infected or suspected of having COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
WorkSafeBC disallows majority of COVID-19 job injury claims

Health care, social services employees filing the most claims

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday October 28, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Conversion therapy ban gets approval in principle, exposes Conservative divisions

Erin O’Toole himself voted in favour of the bill, as did most Conservative MPs

Most Read