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

Royal Roads University to host a Black History Month panel

Four speakers will discuss being of African heritage in B.C.

VIDEO: Friday night fire outside Saanich Staples

Witness says two employees helped put out blaze

Victoria non-profit empowers women escaping abusive homes with a fresh start

Organization’s gift certificate program helped around 400 women last year

VIDEO: Royal Bay Secondary students take flight in ‘Peter and the Starcatcher’

Play tells the story of the orphan who becomes Peter Pan

Volunteers begin work on memorial garden for former Metchosin counsellor

Garden a fitting tribute to Moralea Milne, a champion of Garry oak ecosystems

VIDEO: Iconic ‘snow cone’ takes shape at B.C. park near Clearwater

Snow cone forming at Wells Gray Provincial Park one that would make Disney’s Queen Elsa proud

POLL: Will you be wearing pink to take a stand against bullying?

Schools and workplaces across Greater Victoria and around the province will be… Continue reading

Pink Shirt Day a reminder to ‘T.H.I.N.K.’ before posting on social media

‘Be Kind’ message on shirts sold for anti-bullying activities of Wednesday, Feb. 27

A ‘warm embrace’ for grieving parents at funeral of seven young fire victims

Mourners offered love and support to Kawthar Barho, mother of seven children

Indigenous leaders, politicians say Trans Mountain report flawed

The National Energy Board has endorsed an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline a second time

UPDATE: Reports of rashes prompt closure of all Harrison Hot Springs pools

Public pool available after Fraser Health shut down all five mineral pools until further notice

Legislation to protect B.C. farmland comes into effect

Regulations enhance food security, encourage long-term farming

Have you heard the legend of Shuswaggi, the Shuswap Lake monster?

Witness accounts as old as 1904, and as recent as 2018, place a creature in the lake’s depths

UPDATE: B.C. ticket holder winner of $25.9-million Lotto Max jackpot

Next draw set for Mar. 1 with an estimated jackpot of $10 million

Most Read