Jim White will be using a 75-foot former Canadian Forces Navy vessel called Seaquarium’s Shame to disrupt commercial whale watching on the Salish Sea. Southern Resident orcas are depicted on the sides of the boat including Tokitae, an orca in captivity who White calls the “forgotten 74th member” of the southern residents. (Photo Courtesy of Jim White)

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

Jim White to demonstrate with 75-foot vessel, ‘Seaquarium’s Shame’ in Salish Sea

A Victoria activist is sailing 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 captain and performance artist behind the demonstration. “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, who is using the name Jim White for his demonstration, has a history of environmental activism in the region, and plans to protest with a 75-foot former Canadian Forces Navy vessel he has named the Seaquarium’s Shame. Painted red with representations of the southern resident killer whale spirit pod at the base, Whitehead’s mission is to disrupt commercial whale watching activities off 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 said. “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 government’s interim order prohibiting vessels from approaching any killer whale within a 400-metre distance. That order adding distance ended Oct. 31, reverting to previous rules. Following the order, the Pacific Whale Watch Association signed an agreement to stop offering tours of Southern Resident orcas – but 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 orca pods.

But Whitehead says the changes only prove that whale watching companies are aware of the harmful impacts their boats can have, and says any form of whale watching is going to be harmful for orcas – both residents and transients.

He also hopes to bring attention to Tokitae (Lolita), a southern resident killer whale captured and placed in captivity at the Miami Seaquarium 49 years ago – where she still lives today. Whitehead says the 53-year-old orca is rarely counted as one of the remaining southern residents, which does a disservice to the whale, her pod and her still alive mother, Ocean Sun.

“Tokitae is the last surviving wild orca in North America still held captive,” Whitehead says in a media release. “Seaquarium’s Shame demands that Miami Seaquarium engage with the Lummi Nation and return Tokitae to her mother, her place of creation and the sanctuary the Lummi have prepared for her.”

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 knows his approach to conservation is unconventional, and while he won’t disclose when or where his boat will be appearing, he hopes its presence is enough to get people re-thinking 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.

Just Posted

Esquimalt speed skating week helps province determine find fastest skater

Speed Week takes place on Dec. 17 at Archie Browning arena

Longtime Saanich drama group brings pirates onstage for traditional Christmas pantomime

St. Luke’s Players present Treasure Island Dec. 18 to Jan. 4

Goldstream church offers free festive feast

Gordon United Church says all are welcome to attend Monday’s meal

Sex workers march in downtown Victoria for Red Umbrella Day

Red umbrellas became a symbol of sex workers after an art installation in Italy

MLA Adam Olsen calls for ‘substantial’ changes in provincial economy

Green Party MLA also criticizes gap between government rhetoric and actions

VIDEO: Success of wildlife corridors in Banff National Park has advocates wanting more

Demand for more highway protection escalated after seven elk were killed by a semi-trailer near Canmore

B.C. VIEWS: Hunger does not end with the season

Despite innovations in food distribution, the need is still there in B.C. communities

Sharks beat Canucks 4-2 to snap 6-game skid

Vancouver visits Vegas on Sunday

Fans sing Canadian anthem after sound system breaks at BMW IBSF World Cup

The Canadians in attendance made sure their team and flag were honoured on the podium

VIDEO: Fire destroys Big White Ski Resort chalet

Social media eulogies peg the property, nicknamed “The Pharamacy,” as both loved and hated

Prince George RCMP use bait packages to catch porch pirates over the holidays

First-in-Canada program with Amazon looks to combat parcel theft

Nanaimo mechanical engineer creates thief tracking program

Nanaimo Thief Tracking lets users plot and share information about thefts online

Mayor wants B.C. to institutionalize severely mental ill people who are homeless

Those suffering from mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia, need specialized care, mayor says

Five things of note from Trudeau’s mandate letters to his ministers

Some marching orders come from the Liberal Party’s campaign, while others are new additions

Most Read