A magical sighting of an orca pod in the waters off Vancouver’s Stanley Park on Saturday was spoiled when a speedboat plowed through the animals’ path.
Video of the incident posted online shows three whale watching boats surrounding the orcas from a distance before the recreational craft comes barrelling through.
The video was shot from Prospect Point by Antonio Hurtado-Coll, whose family was visiting the park when they caught sight of the boats.
WATCH: Full video of boat speeding through orca pod
After pinpointing the whales, he quickly grabbed his phone and started filming.
“I panned in to get a closer look, and then there was this guy in a boat that just went flying into the path of the killer whales,” Hurtado-Coll said.
It was the first time the family had ever seen orcas in the 18 years they have been living in Canada, making the boater’s actions that much more baffling to them.
“This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and he completely missed it,” Hurtado-Coll said. “You can see in the video the boat is tilted up. He was completely oblivious.”
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The boater, who hasn’t been identified, also broke rules imposed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans that require boats to stay a safe distance away from southern resident killer whales in order to reduce stress caused by underwater noise.
On June 1, the minimum distance for any vessel was doubled to 400 metres away. Anyone who violates the rule is subject to a maximum penalty of $250,000 and possible prison time.
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Tessa Danelesko, species protection co-ordinator for the Georgia Strait Alliance, said the distance rules are meant to protect the 76 southern resident killer whales remaining in B.C. waters.
“We need to be making sure we’re doing everything we can to give them space so they’re able to do natural behaviours, like socialize, rest and, most importantly, feed,” she said.
Danelesko wouldn’t speculate on why the boater plowed through the orcas’ path, only stressing everyone needs to be more mindful when they’re on the water.
“I think we all have a part to play in keeping not only ourselves safe, but also all members of our marine environment,” she said. “I hope more and more boaters are coming to understand the new rules.”
Hurtado-Coll assumes the boater was a renter and said rental companies need to do more to educate their clients on the rules and staying aware.
As for the whales, he’s simply glad they appeared to be OK after the boat left the area.
“This guy could’ve hurt the whales or could’ve gone through them or what have you,” he said. “Instead of enjoying that marvelous sight we could have been dealing with a tragedy. So I’m glad it didn’t come to that.”