Jim White will be using a 75-foot former Canadian Forces Navy vessel called Seaquarium’s Shame to disrupt commercial whale watching on the Salish Sea. Southern Resident orcas are depicted on the sides of the boat including Tokitae, an orca in captivity who White calls the “forgotten 74th member” of the southern residents. (Photo Courtesy of Jim White)

Jim White will be using a 75-foot former Canadian Forces Navy vessel called Seaquarium’s Shame to disrupt commercial whale watching on the Salish Sea. Southern Resident orcas are depicted on the sides of the boat including Tokitae, an orca in captivity who White calls the “forgotten 74th member” of the southern residents. (Photo Courtesy of Jim White)

‘Orcas are not for entertainment:’ Victoria activist plans to disrupt West Coast whale watching

Jim White to demonstrate with 75-foot vessel, ‘Seaquarium’s Shame’ in Salish Sea

A Victoria activist is sailing a boat of shame on the Salish Sea in an effort to end commercial whale watching.

“The Salish Sea is not a circus [and] orcas are not for entertainment,” says James Whitehead, the captain and performance artist behind the demonstration. “They are an extremely rare and precious animal.”

READ ALSO: Bigg’s orcas in the Salish Sea point to shifting habitat of resident killer whales

Whitehead, who is using the name Jim White for his demonstration, has a history of environmental activism in the region, and plans to protest with a 75-foot former Canadian Forces Navy vessel he has named the Seaquarium’s Shame. Painted red with representations of the southern resident killer whale spirit pod at the base, Whitehead’s mission is to disrupt commercial whale watching activities off the West Coast.

“It’s scientifically documented that orcas change their behaviour from socializing and foraging to [travelling] in the presence of whale watching boats,” he said. “How are the whales compensated for their daily performances for the whale watching industry’s services? The whale watching industry is turning the Salish Sea into a circus. A seat on a whale watching boat is like a seat in a seaquarium.”

READ ALSO: New regulations increase boating distance from killer whales

READ ALSO: Education first step in Canada’s new southern resident killer whale conservation mandates

Activist Jim White says a seat on a whale watching boat “is a seat on the stands of the Miami Seaquarium.” (Photo Courtesy of Jim White)

Whitehead points to the government’s interim order prohibiting vessels from approaching any killer whale within a 400-metre distance. That order adding distance ended Oct. 31, reverting to previous rules. Following the order, the Pacific Whale Watch Association signed an agreement to stop offering tours of Southern Resident orcas – but with a caveat that they could approach transient orcas to a distance of up to 200 metres. Other organizations have also limited the time they spend following orca pods.

But Whitehead says the changes only prove that whale watching companies are aware of the harmful impacts their boats can have, and says any form of whale watching is going to be harmful for orcas – both residents and transients.

He also hopes to bring attention to Tokitae (Lolita), a southern resident killer whale captured and placed in captivity at the Miami Seaquarium 49 years ago – where she still lives today. Whitehead says the 53-year-old orca is rarely counted as one of the remaining southern residents, which does a disservice to the whale, her pod and her still alive mother, Ocean Sun.

“Tokitae is the last surviving wild orca in North America still held captive,” Whitehead says in a media release. “Seaquarium’s Shame demands that Miami Seaquarium engage with the Lummi Nation and return Tokitae to her mother, her place of creation and the sanctuary the Lummi have prepared for her.”

READ ALSO: 30-year-old orca dies at SeaWorld’s Orlando park

READ ALSO: Three southern resident killer whales declared dead plunging population to 73

Whitehead knows his approach to conservation is unconventional, and while he won’t disclose when or where his boat will be appearing, he hopes its presence is enough to get people re-thinking the act of whale viewing.

“Would it be okay to chase a bear in an SUV so long as you were 200 metres away from it?” he poses. “This is a different approach to this issue than what you normally see. I’m coming at this as a citizen with a deep emotional connection to the ocean.

“I think it brings it down to a very human scale…if we really love our coast and our environment, it’s not to hard to do that respectfully and not love it to death.”



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

Follow us on Instagram
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Sofia Watts, Charlotte Magill and Harriet Knight were among the KELSET Elementary School students releasing salmon fry into Reay Creek May 7. (Ian Bruce/Submitted)
Saanich Peninsula elementary students help restock, clean up local creeks

Salmon fry releases took place at Reay Creek and Tetayut Creek

The City of Victoria hopes to improve its cultural spaces this year and it wants non-profits to help. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Grants up to $125,000 open to Victoria non-profit arts and cultural organizations

Victoria Cultural Infrastructure Grant applications close at the end of May

(Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich health and safety manager named one of Canada’s top 40 women in safety

Canadian Occupational Safety magazine celebrates women leading safety sector in 2021

North Saanich has started the design of a crosswalk at the intersection of Mills and Littlewood roads near Garden Child Care Centre, whose owner Tracey McCullough has been calling for such a sidewalk. As such, she has been echoing a previous appeal by the building’s owner, Heather and Cory Hastings, standing respectively with seven-year-old Jack Hastings and five-year-old Felix Hastings. (Black Press Media File)
North Saanich moves ahead with crosswalk near child care centre

Crosswalk proposed for Littlewood and Mills roads parts of approved active transportation plan

Colwood city council did a last minute adjustment to this year’s budget, dropping the planned property increase to five per cent. Last year they didn’t increase taxes at all. (Black Press Media file photo)
Colwood agrees to 5% tax increase for 2021, deferring some expenses to next year

Last-minute changes will save the typical Colwood homeowner $56

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. Dr. Ben Chan remembers hearing the preliminary reports back in March of blood clots appearing in a handful of European recipients of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Science on COVID, VITT constantly changing: A look at how doctors keep up

While VITT can represent challenges as a novel disorder, blood clots themselves are not new

Poached trees that were taken recently on Vancouver Island in the Mount Prevost area near Cowichan, B.C. are shown on Sunday, May 10, 2021. Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have all become valuable targets of tree poachers in British Columbia as timber prices hit record levels. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne.
Tree poaching from public forests increasing in B.C. as lumber hits record prices

Prices for B.C. softwood lumber reached $1,600 for 1,000 board feet compared with about $300 a year ago

The warm weather means time for a camping trip, or at least an excursion into nature. How much do you know about camps and camping-related facts? (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Are you ready to go camping?

How many camp and camping-related questions can you answer?

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Queen Elizabeth II and Clive Holland, deputy commonwealth president of the Royal Life Saving Society, top left, virtually present Dr. Steve Beerman, top right, with the King Edward VII Cup for his drowning-prevention work. Tanner Gorille and Sarah Downs were honoured with Russell Medals for their life-saving resuscitation. (Buckingham Palace photo)
Queen presents Vancouver Island doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup at virtual ceremony

Most Read