'Mom and pops,' Navy sonar are the real problems
July 30, 2009 · 10:25 AM
I have read enough letters to the editor from people who think that whale-watching boats are harassing the orcas, that we are causing them to become disoriented in their environment, that we are causing them stress and are making it impossible for them to find food.
The reference to whale-watch boats and Harley Davidsons was just too much for me to sit back and not respond. I am speaking only for myself and do not imply that I speak for any other whale-watch operator.
In four years of whale watching, I have never once seen the whales act in a distressful manner (whatever that is) or in anyway change their behavior, or their direction because of my boat. What I have seen over and over and over again is a highly intelligent animal who seems to enjoy the fact that we are watching them. I have sat and watched countless times where the whales wait to breach until they are near my boat. I have seen whales suddenly turn and swim right at my boat, making a radical direction change only to “inspect” us before they continue.
Why? After four years, I truly believe this: they are interacting with us, they are having fun with us. If you don't think this is possible, google "Orca Whales of Eden"; it's amazing.
However, there is one boating hazard out on the water that I think needs to be addressed and that is the “mom and pop” boats racing through the orcas at 30 knots. Well, I and, I think, most other whale-watch operators are out there helping Soundwatch, getting on the radio and telling “mom and pops” to slow down, or we are blasting our horns at them, or standing on our boat waving our hands trying to get them to slow down. I think we do a service out there, and I think the whales benefit from us being there, and please do not forget the joy and education that we bring to thousands and thousands of visitors who come to the San Juan Islands just to see the whales.
Lastly, the orca whale population did not start its decline until the very year the U.S. Navy (which still blasts sonar so loud that it kills Dahl's porpoises) moved into Everett. Coincidence? Maybe.
San Juan Island