Photo courtesy Canadian Orca Rescue Society

Whale tale: Victoria activists stage orca vigil for J35

Group calls on government to fund wild salmon hatcheries, invoke emergency measures in Species at Risk Act

Seventeen days.

That’s how long the world watched as J35, a southern resident killer whale, swam through 1,500 kilometres of the Salish Sea with the body of her dead calf upon her nose, who died the day she gave birth to her, less than a month earlier.

READ MORE: Mystery mosaic with a message appears at Oak Bay beach

And that’s how long Gregg McElroy and Eric Pittman of the Canadian Orca Rescue Society will carry their homemade orca balloons along Victoria’s Inner Harbour to draw attention to the plight of the 74 remaining killer whales.

“They’re starving to death,” McElroy says, of the orcas, who face extinction because of a rapidly depleting food supply. “Their main food source, the chinook salmon, is in peril.”

With a rotating cast of volunteers, the pair are collecting signatures – 700 in the first 11 days – for a petition they will present to both the provincial and federal government requesting emergency measures to be invoked under the Species at Risk Act, legislation designed to protect endangered or threatened organisms and their habitats.

“They’re dying, and they’re at their last resort,” McElroy says. “Just like a human would be – you would go to any length to try to save your child. That’s what I saw.”

READ MORE: Orca’s tour of grief over after carrying dead calf around for nearly 3 weeks

Raising funds to increase wild salmon hatcheries is also part of the Canadian Orca Rescue Society’s goals, particularly the 4 Mile Creek Hatchery in Port Renfrew which releases the fish directly into the orcas’ habitat. The society’s mandate: “to bring salmon back to every river and creek in B.C.”

McElroy likens the ocean to a garden. “We’ve been taking everything out of it, and we haven’t put anything back into it.”

They’re also calling on the government to increase funding for salmon habitat rehabilitation, regulation of the whale watching industry, and a promise not to increase tanker traffic through the Salish Sea.

READ MORE: Grieving orca should inspire more than momentary sympathy

With the purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline in May, that promises to increase tanker traffic 700 per cent, the whales face certain death, McElroy says.

And while the pair’s orca balloons have been a steady presence at many anti-pipeline rallies, Pittman says they’re not a protest group.

“We want to be a helpful group,” he stresses. “We’re here to help restore the ecosystem of the West Coast. We’re here to do some good.”

The Canadian Orca Rescue Society tour the Inner Harbour every evening from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. until Oct. 17.


@kristyn_anthony
kristyn.anthony@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Meet Your Candidates: Learn more about the Esquimalt council candidates

We asked candidates what changes they would make in the municipality

BC SPCA sees successful weekend from adoption sales

On Saturday animal shelters across the province reduced their adoption fees

Afternoon collision launches vehicle through downtown Victoria business

Two female drivers and staff of CEV Victoria uninjured, but visibly shaken

West Shore RCMP tape off Langford law office sent suspicious substance last month

No confirmation as to why police were back at Hemminger Law Group Monday afternoon

Two drivers crash through Victoria homes in two weeks

VicPD say alcohol is believed to a factor in both incidents

Campers near Saanich municipal hall await response from transportation ministry

MOTI expected to decide Monday when campers need to leave

Advance voting begins Oct. 10 in Greater Victoria

The polls open at 8 a.m. for the 2018 municipal election with the general election taking place Oct. 20

Find your future at Black Press career fair in Victoria

More than 70 booths expected at Bay Street Armoury on Oct. 25

Trump: Saudi king ‘firmly denies’ any role in Khashoggi mystery

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is travelling to the Middle East to learn more about the fate of the Saudi national

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen dies at 65

Allen died in Seattle from complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

Transport Canada to take new look at rules, research on school bus seatbelts

Canada doesn’t currently require seatbelts on school buses

Sockeye run in Shuswap expected to be close to 2014 numbers

Salute to the Sockeye on Adams River continues until Sunday, Oct. 21 at 4 p.m.

Michelle Mungall’s baby first in B.C. legislature chamber

B.C. energy minister praises support of staff, fellow MLAs

Canucks: Pettersson in concussion protocol, Beagle out with broken forearm

Head coach Travis Green called the hit ‘a dirty play’

Most Read