British Columbia

'Dangerous and reckless': speedboat races through pod of orcas near Stanley Park

A video posted on Facebook of a boat speeding through a pod of killer whales near Vancouver's Stanley Park has sparked shock and outrage. 

Marine mammal researcher says boats are one of the top causes of killer whale deaths

A video posted on social media shows a speed boat racing through a pod of orcas near Stanley Park. (Antonio Hurtado Coll/Facebook)

A video posted on Facebook of a boat speeding through a pod of killer whales near Vancouver's Stanley Park has sparked shock and outrage. 

The video, shot on Saturday, shows a few vessels sitting still on the water near Prospect Point, apparently watching the pod of orcas, when a small powerboat cuts through at high speed right overtop of the killer whales. 

By law, boaters are supposed to give orcas in B.C. a 200-metre berth and cut their engines so they don't disturb or cause them any harm. 

And recently, a 400-metre approach distance became mandatory for all killer whales in the southern resident killer whale critical habitat, which encompasses the waters of southern B.C. and northern Washington.

North Delta resident Antonio Hurtado Coll was visiting Stanley Park with his wife when he saw the orcas and then captured them and the speedboat on his phone.

Watch the video here:

Hurtado Coll said people watched in disbelief, with some yelling for the boat to stop. 

"You have to give room to the orcas, right? It's just not acceptable not to stop," Hurtado Coll said. 

Other boats in the area had cut their engines, Hurtado Coll. He thinks that if the boaters had been paying attention they would have noticed and slowed down. 

'It should never happen'

Andrew Trites, director of the Marine Mammal Research Unit at the University of British Columbia's Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, said getting struck by vessels is one of the biggest causes of killer whales deaths around the world.

The blades of the motor can rip the whales apart. Trites said watching the video was "disturbing."

"I just don't understand it," Trites said. "What this person did is dangerous and reckless. It puts whales at risk and it should never happen."

Trites said watching the video is like watching a car speeding toward a crosswalk full of people — one shouldn't assume the pedestrians will get out of the way. 

Instead of more regulations, Trites said he would rather boaters be aware of existing laws. 

"This could have been entirely avoided," he said.  

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.