Environmentalists are worried a U.S. warship may have frightened a pod of orcas swimming off southern Vancouver Island.
Orca whales and porpoises use their sensitive acoustics system to communicate, hunt and navigate.
- INDEPTH: Orcas
"They heard the sound," said biologist Anna Hall of Prince of Wales Whale Watchers. "Whether or not it bothered them, we'll never know, and hopefully it didn't have any long-term effects on them."
When the sonar was used, Hall saw the whales all squashed together against the shoreline. She said it's a good sign the whales were all back in the area the next day.
FROM JULY 17, 2002:
U.S. navy sonar may pose threat to whales
The worst-case scenario is that sonar causes physical damage; at best, it annoys the whales, scientists say.
Canada's navy won't use sonar when whales are around. For security reasons, the U.S. navy won't reveal what kind of sonar it used. Environmentalists say the U.S. navy should follow the same rules as other boaters.
"They're not going to find Osama bin Laden or weapons of mass destruction in the Strait of Georgia," said Peter Ronald of the Georgia Strait Alliance.
The Whale Watch Operators Association has filed a complaint with Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which is investigating the incident.
Larry Paike, district supervisor for DFO, said the U.S. could face charges for disturbing or molesting marine mammals.
The U.S. navy is already in an American court defending a new sonar that critics say threatens marine life.