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Eye-Pods: Watching the Whales

Paparazzi or persecution?

Photo of orca and calf, taken by Danielle Wills off Lions Bay Beach, May 18, 2024.

An orca pod traversing Howe Sound this long weekend was the subject of intense scrutiny, both on land and water. A concerned resident contacted The Watershed with photo documenting a long string of whale-watching vessels chasing down what was later determined to be a female and her calf.


At least 7 vessels pictured pursuing orca pod in Howe Sound near Brunswick Beach on May 18.

The federal department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) offers very specific guidelines for watching marine wildlife, including a minimum distance of 200 metres when observing orcas along the southwest coast. "If you see a tail, fin or spray – Stay far enough away."


One local witness to the event expressed his concern: "Clearly there is a difference between the odd boat using these distances to respect these animals when it is a matter of happenstance, versus 10 boats relentlessly pursuing these animals with dozens and dozens of paying tourists for hours on end."


About the same time, social media posts showed photographic evidence of up to 30 vehicles parked along the roadside on the Sea to Sky north of Lions Bay. There were reports of passengers dodging traffic to dash across the highway for a glimpse of the whale-watching boats and their quarry.


Resident Danielle Wills got a look at the mother and calf as they swam by Lions Bay Beach after the encounter with the whale-watching boats.


"When I got down to Lions Bay Beach, I quickly snapped a photo just as the orcas were heading off south, or towards Bowen," said Wills. "At that point I didn’t notice the boats as much – the orcas seemed to have spread out a bit and I think the boats had turned to go towards Bowen as well."


Constable Eden Johner of the Squamish RCMP said that no complaints had been received regarding whale-watchers on land or sea over the weekend.



The Watershed welcomes your thoughts. Leave your comments below, or email us at editor@lionsbaywatershed.ca 


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Surely a number of complaints to Fisheries and Oceans is in order here. 10 boats relentlessly pursuing a mom and calf with paying tourists on board for hours on end, as stated in the article, is deplorable and unacceptable. Many of these boats and the businesses who operate them are identifiable. Good job Danielle bringing this forward. Thank you for the lovely shot of mom and calf in our waters.

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Great shot Danielle!

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