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

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

Just Posted

A family of ducks that lives near Saanich Municipal Hall recently welcomed 11 ducklings and took them for a swim in the koi pond outside the offices. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Pair of ducks make Saanich Municipal Hall a nursery for 11 hatchlings

Family of ducks spent time in koi pond before heading down to Swan Lake

Habitat Acquisition Trust has received provincial funding to help restore Garry oak ecosystems on southern Vancouver Island. (Photo by Jeremy da Silva)
Central Saanich park among sites for local Garry oak restoration projects

Habitat Acquisition Trust received $140,000 in funding for 12 projects

Architect’s rendering of the 7 Erskine Lane development, showing the view from the east and south. (VDA Architecture Ltd. image)
View Royal green-lights residential development on Erskine Lane

First of two developments near Victoria General Hospital will provide 71 housing units

Andrew Swanson was arrested Wednesday after he was wanted for an alleged choking assault and for obstructing police. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Victoria police arrest Andrew Swanson on warrants for alleged choking assault, obstruction

A member of the public spotted Swanson and called 911 before police came and made the arrest

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

More than 6,000 camping reservations in British Columbia were cancelled as a result of a provincial order limiting travel between health regions. (Unsplash)
1 in 4 camping reservations cancelled in B.C. amid COVID-19 travel restrictions

More than 6,500 BC Parks campsite reservations for between April 19 and May 25 have been revoked

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of May 4

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

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: Do you plan to travel on the Victoria Day long weekend?

It’s the unofficial start to the summer season. A time of barbecues,… Continue reading

A worker rides a bike at a B.C. Hydro substation in Vancouver, on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
BC Hydro report raises safety concerns as pandemic prompts jump in yard work

Incidents involving weekend tree trimmers, gardeners and landscapers have risen 30% since the pandemic hit

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Most Read