British Columbia

Luna killed by tugboat

Luna, the Vancouver Island killer whale with a reputation for loving human contact, has been killed after getting too close to a tugboat's propellers.

Luna, the Vancouver Island killer whale with a reputation for loving human contact, has been killed after getting too close to a tugboat's propellers.

The whale got caught in the propellers of the Vancouver-based tugboat General Jackson in Nootka Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island on Friday morning.

David Wiwchar, the managing editor of of the Ha-Shilith-sa newspaper, says the tug had arrived in the sound in bad weather, pulling a large log-dumping barge.

He says Luna was familiar with the General Jackson and went out to meet it, and "got sucked into the propellers, and was killed immediately."

"We have been told that the skipper is greatly distressed," said DFO spokesperson Lara Sloan.

"The tug was idling – it is assumed that Luna was doing what he usually does and that is playing around the propellers."

"There's really no blame," said Department of Fisheries and Oceans scientist Dr. John Ford, referring to the fact Luna loved playing with boats of any kind.

This wasn't the first time Luna had gotten too close to a propeller. In 2003, the whale was cut by a prop after getting too close to a small boat.

Luna was first spotted near the government dock in community of Gold River in Nootka Sound in the summer of 2001 after getting separated from his pod.

He was extremely friendly, and became a popular tourist attraction in the depressed former pulp mill town.



Luna follows canoes down Nootka Sound, as
First Nations paddlers prevent his capture
But the whale become so friendly with boats and seaplanes that fisheries officers considered him a risk to public safety.

At that point, plans were drawn up by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to try to move the whale, to reunite him with his pod in the waters west of Victoria.

But local First Nations paddlers thwarted DFO attempts to catch the whale.

The Mowaat-Muchalaat First Nation said they believed the friendly whale embodied the spirit of Chief Ambrose Maquinna, who had died just days before Luna was first seen in the area.

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