Photo courtesy Canadian Orca Rescue Society

Whale tale: Victoria activists stage orca vigil for J35

Group calls on government to fund wild salmon hatcheries, invoke emergency measures in Species at Risk Act

Seventeen days.

That’s how long the world watched as J35, a southern resident killer whale, swam through 1,500 kilometres of the Salish Sea with the body of her dead calf upon her nose, who died the day she gave birth to her, less than a month earlier.

READ MORE: Mystery mosaic with a message appears at Oak Bay beach

And that’s how long Gregg McElroy and Eric Pittman of the Canadian Orca Rescue Society will carry their homemade orca balloons along Victoria’s Inner Harbour to draw attention to the plight of the 74 remaining killer whales.

“They’re starving to death,” McElroy says, of the orcas, who face extinction because of a rapidly depleting food supply. “Their main food source, the chinook salmon, is in peril.”

With a rotating cast of volunteers, the pair are collecting signatures – 700 in the first 11 days – for a petition they will present to both the provincial and federal government requesting emergency measures to be invoked under the Species at Risk Act, legislation designed to protect endangered or threatened organisms and their habitats.

“They’re dying, and they’re at their last resort,” McElroy says. “Just like a human would be – you would go to any length to try to save your child. That’s what I saw.”

READ MORE: Orca’s tour of grief over after carrying dead calf around for nearly 3 weeks

Raising funds to increase wild salmon hatcheries is also part of the Canadian Orca Rescue Society’s goals, particularly the 4 Mile Creek Hatchery in Port Renfrew which releases the fish directly into the orcas’ habitat. The society’s mandate: “to bring salmon back to every river and creek in B.C.”

McElroy likens the ocean to a garden. “We’ve been taking everything out of it, and we haven’t put anything back into it.”

They’re also calling on the government to increase funding for salmon habitat rehabilitation, regulation of the whale watching industry, and a promise not to increase tanker traffic through the Salish Sea.

READ MORE: Grieving orca should inspire more than momentary sympathy

With the purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline in May, that promises to increase tanker traffic 700 per cent, the whales face certain death, McElroy says.

And while the pair’s orca balloons have been a steady presence at many anti-pipeline rallies, Pittman says they’re not a protest group.

“We want to be a helpful group,” he stresses. “We’re here to help restore the ecosystem of the West Coast. We’re here to do some good.”

The Canadian Orca Rescue Society tour the Inner Harbour every evening from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. until Oct. 17.


@kristyn_anthony
kristyn.anthony@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Block party hosted in Oak Bay to welcome two young Syrian refugees

Funds raised will support the brothers for first year on Island

Sidney Mounties and Saanich PD nab break and enter suspect

Police forces work together to arrest and charge Saanich resident

IKEA offers free meatballs, travel expenses in search for ‘happiness consultant’

Job opening to spend two weeks in Denmark finding the key to a happy home

‘Cats fend off Elks to move into a tie for first in division

Victoria HarbourCats take their sixth win in eight games

VIDEO: B.C. First Nation plans to launch legal challenge after Trans Mountain approval

Meanwhile, Premier John Horgan says he’ll continue to defend the B.C. coast

POLL: Do you support the government’s decision to approve the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion?

The federal government announced Tuesday its approval for the Trans Mountain pipeline… Continue reading

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of June 18

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Billboard posted along B.C.’s Highway of Tears to remember missing and murdered Indigenous women

Billboards featuring Indigenous artwork to be placed in Surrey, Kamloops and near Prince George

Federal cabinet ministers visit Edmonton, Calgary, in wake of TMX approval

Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi is set to visit Trans Mountain Corp.’s terminal in Edmonton

B.C. municipality prepares to forbid overnight camping by homeless despite court ruling

While courts have ruled against blanket bans, Langley City is employing a site-by-site approach

B.C. auditor says Indigenous grad rate highest ever but education gaps exist

The percentage of Indigenous students graduating from B.C. public high schools has hit its highest level ever

Statistics Canada reports annual pace of inflation rises in May to 2.4%

Transportation prices gained 3.1 per cent as the cost of air transportation added 8.9 per cent

BREAKING: Forest fire on North Island disrupts Hwy. 19

Wildfire has reached .25 hectares, according to BC Wildfire Service

Most Read