Whale watch boats are harassing orcas

As a Canadian neighbor in the Salish Sea, we are impressed with Washington state’s actions to protect the Southern Resident Killer Whales. Here too, public and private groups are working to ensure their survival and, like yourselves, in the process are running into opposition from commercial interests, primarily the whale watching businesses.

We have heard the suggestion that whale watching does more for conservation of the whales than most other groups (“Limits for whale watch boats ignore larger problem,” The Herald, Dec. 13). We hear the statements that the threat to these whales is the lack of chinook salmon, not boatloads of onlookers. Both these statements have a grain of truth but in their totality are false.

Raising awareness of the orcas’ plight does help toward conservation efforts, but at what cost to the whales by harassing them? The chinook stocks are low, but that is not the only problem. The continuous parade of boats following the pods interferes with their resting, their social activities, and the associated noise interferes with the sonar abilities of the whales in finding whatever chinook that may be in the area.

Simply having so many boats constantly surrounding the pods is harmful, physically and psychologically. Imagine yourself being followed by a group of people wherever you went, whenever you wanted to eat or sleep. Would it matter whether they were on the opposite side of the street?

If we are truly committed to giving these whales a chance to survive, we have to stop treating them as a commodity to profit from and realize they are conscious, intelligent, mammals who deserve some peace and quiet. Enough of the misleading news releases that serve to promote self-interests in the guise of helping the whales.

Keep doing the great work Washington.

Steve Wright

Pender Island, B.C.

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