Luxury yacht encounter with whales upsets islanders

DFO has opened a preliminary investigation into what happened Thursday evening off the east side of Quadra Island

Fisheries and Oceans Canada has been fielding complaints from several upset Quadra Islanders who witnessed a luxury yacht disturb a pod of orcas – some of them reportedly babies.

Leri Davies, spokesperson for Fisheries and Oceans, said the department has opened a preliminary investigation into what happened Thursday evening off the east side of Quadra Island.

“Several complaints were launched about this one incident,” Davies said Monday afternoon from the department’s Vancouver office. “We’re trying to narrow down what happened and then determine if there is enough evidence to pursue a formal investigation.”

Quadra resident Gary Falck, who witnessed the incident from his home, said he was one of the witnesses who alerted Fisheries and Oceans.

Falck said at around 7:45 p.m. Thursday evening, his neighbour called him to tell him there was a pod of about five to seven whales (two to three juveniles) heading south down the back side of Quadra.

“I started taking pictures of them because they had little babies,” Falck said. “The next thing I see a boat beelining it from Cortes/Marina Island way. He’s coming at a high speed, he’s within 20 to 30 feet of them – a big, 80-foot yacht.”

Falck said the boat was close enough that he was able to take down the name of the yacht – the Amnesia IV – which is based out of Vancouver.

“He basically was so close we thought he may run aground,” Falck said. “He actually forced the whales in closer (to shore) than they normally are when they come by here.”

Falck said the yacht, which he claims was closer to the whales than the boat’s dinghy was to the yacht, allegedly followed alongside the whales with its engine running for about 15-20 minutes in front of his home and then went out of sight.

He said his neighbours to the south, however, saw the boat continue to follow the whales for another 10-15 minutes until they disappeared from sight.

Falck said the whales seemed distressed and one particular orca who appeared to be the alpha male, tried to rescue his family.

“The whales appeared rather distraught,” Falck said. “One actually turned around, it appeared to be trying to lead the pod away from the boat. It was a little disturbing for those of us who watched them. I can see if you’re trying to get pictures but go down, sit there and turn your engine off and hope they come over to you, but don’t do (what they did), that’s really bad.”

Falck said when he reported the incident to Fisheries and Oceans, he was asked if he would be willing to testify in court, should it come to that. Falck agreed without hesitation.

Falck said the incident was reminiscent of the Carl Petersen case three years ago but worse in his view.

In the Petersen incident, the Quadra Island man was fined $7,500 after being convicted of disturbing marine mammals and harassing a threatened species. Petersen was out on his boat trying to get a photo of some killer whales for a friend and got as close as 15-25 metres behind the whales.

According to whale watching guidelines, boaters are expected to remain at least 100 metres away from orcas laterally.

The maximum fine for offenders is $100,00 under the Marine Mammal Regulations and $250,000 under the Species At Risk Act.

Under the Act it is illegal to harass a member of a wildlife species that is listed as endangered or threatened. B.C.’s two resident killer whale populations are listed as endangered (southern residents) and threatened (northern residents) under the Act.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada encourages anyone who witnesses an incident to call the 24-hour Observe, Record, Report line at 1-800-465-4336.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Campbell River city council has set next year’s municipal tax rate increase at 2.85 per cent and now it’s up to staff to propose options on how to make that happen. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror
Campbell River’s municipal tax rate to rise by 2.85% in 2021

After three days of talks, council sets tax rate increase and tells city staff to make it happen

The RCMP are asking people to respect decisions to not celebrate Halloween this year, and to enjoy the holiday safely. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror.
RCMP ask that decisions to skip Halloween are respected, and that everyone enjoy the event safely

Reminder that fireworks without permit are not allowed under city bylaws

Quadra Island RCMP detachment. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror.
Multiple patients involved in Quadra Island motor vehicle incident

Quadra fire, BC Ambulance and RCMP responding

Centennial Pool is one of the ‘unfortunate casualties’ of the city’s 2021 budget cuts, according to Mayor Andy Adams, but the closure does enable the city to get more work done on the facility rather than have to close it again in the future for renovations. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror
Centennial Pool could remain closed for 2021 due to lack of gaming revenue for City of Campbell River

Change room building likely to get major overhaul while the facility is closed anyway

Over the years, Janice Blackie-Goodine’s home in Summerland has featured elaborate Halloween displays and decorations each October. (File photo)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about Halloween?

Oct. 31 is a night of frights. How much do you know about Halloween customs and traditions?

The North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP are looking for information about William Mack, last seen in Duncan on Oct. 28. (File photo)
Police searching for missing man last seen near Duncan

William Mack, 72, was seen on Gibbins Road on Oct. 28

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

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

FILE - In this Jan. 23, 1987 file photo, actor Sean Connery holds a rose in his hand as he talks about his new movie “The Name of the Rose” at a news conference in London. Scottish actor Sean Connery, considered by many to have been the best James Bond, has died aged 90, according to an announcement from his family. (AP Photo/Gerald Penny, File)
Actor Sean Connery, the ‘original’ James Bond, dies at 90

Oscar-winner was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000

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

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

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

Most Read