Former Campbell River guide denies harassing killer whales

The alleged harassment was also witnessed by two other whale watching operators

A former guide is on trial for allegedly harassing killer whales.

Jason Smith is charged with harassing northern resident killer whales under  the Species at Risk Act and for disturbing them.

The Campbell River man has pled not guilty to both charges and is self-represented in the three-day trial which is expected to conclude today in Campbell River provincial court.

The trial began Wednesday and the first prosecution witness was federal fisheries officer Carlos Paramio who testified that he was contacted by Mark Evans of Discovery Marine Safaris following an incident north of Campbell River on Aug. 16, 2010.

Evans told Paramio that he saw an Eagle Eye Adventures boat that was harassing a pod of orcas.

“He was very upset and his clients were upset,” said Paramio.

The alleged harassment was also witnessed by two other whale watching operators. Paramio also contacted them and heard similar stories.

The operator of the Eagle Eye boat went by the radio identity of “J-Bear” or “Jay Bear” and Paramio said this is a call sign used by Smith. Paramio also said he knew Smith from a previous meeting in 2006.

As part of his job with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Paramio meets with all  marine tour groups to explain the rules and to provide them with the written regulations and guidelines. These include not coming within 100 metres of whales and to not follow and watch them for more than half an hour.

“In general, if you follow the guidelines, you won’t disturb whales,” Paramio said.

Smith has denied the accusations and took issue with the statements taken from the other marine tour operators.

“I’m looking at three different witness statements and they all exceeded the 30-minute viewing time,” said Smith during his cross-examination of Paramio. “I’m wondering why there isn’t any shared responsibility here?”