Conservationists call on navy to restrict sonar use in whale habitat

HMCS Ottawa captain cites Canadian Forces' marine mammal mitigation policy to defend activities in Juan de Fuca Strait

The death of a killer whale that washed up along the Washington coast days after a Canadian navy warship used its sonar in February has prompted conservation groups to take action.

Eight organizations have sent a letter to Defence Minister Peter MacKay urging the Royal Canadian Navy to stop using mid-frequency active sonar, explosives and other active acoustic systems in areas frequented by endangered southern resident killer whales. The groups include Greenpeace Canada, the David Suzuki Foundation and the World Wildlife Fund.

The navy drew fire from environmentalists after it was learned that HMCS Ottawa used sonar during a Feb. 6 anti-submarine exercise off the coast of Victoria in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Biologists say sonar can interrupt whales’ communication and navigation abilities.

Ship captain Cmdr. Scott Van Will said afterward that no whales had been detected within 4,000 yards (3.6 kilometres) during the exercise.

The ship’s company followed a Canadian Forces’ marine mammal mitigation policy, Van Will said. Since 2008, the policy has governed the use of sonar by Canadian military vessels and aircraft.

But whale advocates, in a joint statement issued March 21, maintain that “killer whales were known to be in the area just following, and likely during, the exercise.”

They say the remains of a three-year old female orca washed ashore on the outer Washington coast on Feb. 11, five days after sonar was used.

Conservationists are also seeking the release of information on all naval exercises conducted in February.

The cause of the whale’s death is under investigation, highlighting the “urgent need for information on all activities, military and otherwise, that might have contributed to her death,” the statement reads. “The loss of a young female represents a major reproductive impact to this population.”

emccracken@vicnews.com

Just Posted

‘Best in the country’: Formerly homeless man praises Victoria’s outreach services

Jay W. was living on the streets of downtown Victoria in 2018

Time-lapse video shows weekend work on McKenzie Interchange project

Construction crews place concrete underpass bridge beams

City of Victoria plans workshop to determine fate of Sir John A. Macdonald statue

Conversations will happen as part of a reconciliation dialogue series in May 2020

Years of ‘horrific, violent accidents’ at Thetis Lake prompt plea to public

View Royal fire chief asks for an end to alcohol consumption at busy park

Islanders have new cancer screening option with $6.5 M diagnostic suite in Victoria

The Gordon Heys Family PET/CT Suite was unveiled at the BC Cancer Centre-Victoria

VIDEO: Man found dead near B.C. teens’ truck could be linked to a double homicide

RCMP said they are looking for Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, of Port Alberni

Latest plan is to fly trapped fish by helicopter over Big Bar slide

Multi-pronged plan set in motion to freesalmon blocked by landslide in the Fraser River

Family of missing B.C. senior with dementia frustrated with situation, heartened by community support

Nine days since Grace was last seen the question remains: ‘How can an 86-year-old just disappear?’

Police ask for help locating missing men last seen in South Surrey

Jeep that Richard Scurr and Ryan Provencher were in has been located unoccupied in Logan Lake: RCMP

Okanagan Air Cadet challenges gender-exclusive haircut policy

Haircut regulation inspires challenge around gender identity

VIDEO: Bystander training gains traction as tool to prevent sexual harassment, violence

Julia Gartley was sexually assaulted after an event, and no one stepped in to help

Sexual assaults, extortion on the rise even as crime rates stay low: Stats Canada

Rates of police-reported sexual assault rose for the fourth year in a row

Vancouver Island teens missing after vehicle found ablaze near Dease Lake, BC

RCMP say a body discovered nearby not one of the missing teens

Most Read