Cowichan Bay whale watchers record ‘alarming’ navy sonar testing in Saanich Inlet


WATCH: Cowichan Bay whale watchers say they’re worried recent military activity in the Saanich Inlet could harm orcas. Isabelle Raghem reports. 

A group geared up Saturday afternoon to catch a glimpse of the Saanich Inlet’s marine life, but on a recent visit captains from Ocean Ecoventures Whale Watching heard something they weren’t expecting.

“They were doing not only just sonar testing but invasive sonar testing,” says head captain Gary Sutton.

He used an underwater microphone to record the high pitch sound, he says came from nearby the navy’s HMCS Calgary.

“We actually went closer to it [and] once I shut down [the vessel] you could actually hear it through the hull of this boat with no hydrophone and that was shocking to me,” adds Sutton.

He says what’s most alarming is this was happening not far from whales.

“We actually had killer whales that day 10 minutes away.”

It comes as the endangered population of southern resident orcas has been dropped to just 75 members. The Center for Whale Research has listed L92, a 23 year old male, as deceased.

READ MORE: L92, southern resident killer whale listed as dead

The whale, also called ‘Crewser’, was always seen with his aunt but in recent sightings of his L pod he is absent. He was last seen last November.

“To lose such a young male it’s pretty heartbreaking for the population,” says Sutton. “It’s a good reminder that this population is against a lot and we need to do as much as we can for them to make sure that they’re surviving.”

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has been notified.

Isabelle RaghemIsabelle Raghem

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