Live-Fire Exercise Around Endangered Orcas
Stacy Ross, CHEK News
CHEK NEWS Anchor: It is a spectacle traditionally seen in summer but this winter killer whales have been spotted in our waters in higher-than-usual numbers. But Stacy Ross tells us some are concerned that their proximity to US naval base could be harmful.
Stacy Ross: They are feeding and surfacing and breaching in numbers rarely seen.
Anna Hall, Phd, Marine Mammal Biologist: More sightings and more regular sightings than what we normally experience in sorta the whale watching off-season.
Stacy Ross: Biologists aren’t quite sure why they’re here. But for the resident pods, their location is not as important.
Anna Hall, PhD.: Are they healthy? Is the food supply adequate? Is it clean enough and is the habitat of a high-enough quality that they can continue to thrive?
(sound-up, naval jets taking off at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.)
Stacy Ross: Of concern Tuesday was whether the habitat — mainly proximity to the Whidbey Island Naval Station — was safe enough.
Capt. Hobbes Buchanan, San Juan Island Whale & Wildlife Tours: I just heard them broadcast that they are conducting joint exercises and will be doing live firing in the vicinity of Whidbey Island. When I heard that, I went, “Ooh, wait a minute. We’ve got orcas down in the Sound right now coming this way.
Stacy Ross: Word of the perceived danger quickly spread.
Capt. Hobbes Buchanan, San Juan Island Whale & Wildlife Tours: We cannot afford to lose another whale. We’re down to 80 animals now, and these guys will be extent shortly if we don’t act now and really take care of them.
Stacy Ross: In 2012 when resident orca L112′s body washed up on shore, some believed a sonar blast from the U.S. Navy fleet was to blame — though it was never confirmed.
(sound-up, sonar from USS Shoup in 2003)
Stacy Ross: And in 2003 the guided missile destroyer USS Shoup was said to have caused serious disturbance with its sonar testing. In Tuesday’s case, U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard say they were not involved. A spokesman from the Naval Station on Whidbey Island says it had no boats in the water yesterday. They were conducting routine small arms training on land. Naval staff they heard no reports of any whales.
Capt. Mark Malleson, Prince of Whales Whale Watching: We’ll begin to have a protocol in place for agencies to make a call to find out if there are any whales in the area.
Stacy Ross: Interest groups say that while the communication is improving, there are no official plans to start putting whale-spotting protocols in place.