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'People were in disbelief': powerboat speeds through orca pod in Burrard Inlet

Last Updated Jul 1, 2019 at 2:27 pm MST

A powerboat speeds towards an orca pod in Burrard Inlet, June 29, 2019 (Screen capture, video by Antonio Hurtado-Coll)
Summary

Boats are required to stay at least 400 metres away from killer whales

Orcas have become more common in Burrard Inlet as they search for food

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A serene moment in Burrard Inlet turned into one of shock and surprise this long weekend as a powerboat cut into the path of a killer whales pod.

Antonio Hurtado-Coll was with some out-of-town family members at Stanley Park’s Prospect Point Saturday when he saw the trio of orcas off shore and started recording with his phone.

That’s when the boat sped in from Vancouver Harbour, cutting right along the path where the whales were seen seconds before.

“People were in disbelief that this guy was not stopping… even if you don’t know the rules of the way in the water, it makes common sense to stop,” he says.

“Fortunately, it seems that nothing happened to the whales, but it could have.”

Federal laws around boater interactions with killer whales are tighter as of last month. Generally, boats must remain at least 400 metres away from orcas, and cut their engines so they don’t disturb or hurt the animals.

Fines for violating these rules can hit $250,000, with the possibility of prison time.

Andrew Trites, director of Marine Mammal Research Unit at UBC, says orcas have been showing up more and more in Burrard Inlet recently as they search for seals and other sources of food.

After watching the video, he says he’s shocked at how close the boater got to the whales.

“Some people say, ‘well maybe the guy just didn’t see it.’ That’s almost like saying someone is driving a car with their eyes closed. You just don’t do that,” says Trites.

“You keep your eyes open because, particularity in that narrow channel, there’s lots of boats, there’s the potential for debris, and also for marine mammals to be there.”

Hurtado-Coll says if there’s a silver lining to his video, it’s that other boaters may be more conscious about the well-being of orcas near Vancouver’s coastline.