‘Bad behaviour’: Boater allegedly harasses, takes selfies with orcas off Vancouver Island

'Bad behaviour': Boater allegedly harasses, takes selfies with orcas off Vancouver Island
Photographer TJ Campbell captured this photo of a boater allegedly harassing orcas in Baynes Sound, Monday, July 3, 2023.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is investigating after a boater allegedly harassed orcas, including a calf, in waters off Vancouver Island.

The incident happened around 6 p.m. Monday in Baynes Sound, near Royston, where the boater “drove right into the middle of (the orcas). He knew they were there,” according to photographer TJ Campbell, who captured it all on camera.

“It’s just bad behaviour. This is blatant, you know. Normally I wouldn’t even get involved, but I can’t handle that kind of behaviour,” Campbell told CHEK News.

He says he didn’t think much of the situation at first, but then the boater extended his fishing rod to the orcas, also known as killer whales.

“He put it out purposely. Whether it had a line on it or not, I can’t tell you. I was too far away to see that,” said Campbell, whose photos show the boater holding the rod, then his phone. “Whether he was just posing for a silly photo of a fishing rod with orcas … And then taking selfies.”

The orcas were trying to flee, but the boater didn’t let up, said Campbell in an interview Wednesday morning.

“The orcas were trying to get him away from the baby by splashing their tails down. They kind of separated from the boat, then he started up and drove over to them again. He was trying to touch them,” he said. “Not a super intelligent thing to do.”

Yet Campbell wasn’t the only witness.

“There were lots of people on the beach,” he recalled. “Everyone was yelling at him, and he just waved back at everybody thinking it was great. He did that for 20 or 25 minutes. Another boat came by, and they did the right thing. They were far away and turned their engine off and then they left.”

Speaking with CHEK News last month, Pacific Whale Watch Association executive director Erin Gless reminded boaters to stay at least 400 metres away from whales and to “look for their tall fins and spouts,” among other regulations found on the Government of Canada’s website.

“Sometimes, they will approach vessels. If that happens, turn off the engine and wait for them to pass. We don’t want you to turn on your engine and speed away. Stay calm and wait for them to leave,” said Gless.

The DFO says it’s aware of the Baynes Sound incident.

“…fishery officer(s) from the Whale Protection Unit are currently looking into it,” read a statement to CHEK News. “The Department would like to thank the members of the public who alerted us to this event…”

Campbell’s happy he captured it all on camera and says he’s been in touch with the DFO, which now has his photos as evidence.

“I carry my camera everywhere I go,” he said, adding that while he’s seen “all sorts of behaviour on the water,” he’s never seen something quite like this.

“If he would have parked and just waited, that would be one thing, but driving into the pod, especially because they have a little baby with them. To get out there and try to touch them and drive in the middle and separate them,” added Campbell.

“That’s just not okay.”

Anyone who sees a whale being harassed or disturbed, instances of a collision with whales or whale entanglements is asked to contact the DFO via its report hotline at 1-800-465-4336 or by email at [email protected].

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!