Stand-up paddleboarder Christie Jamieson kneels as a pod of transient orcas put on a dramatic show on Jan. 19 in the Ucluelet Harbour. (Nora O’Malley photo)

Stand-up paddleboarder Christie Jamieson kneels as a pod of transient orcas put on a dramatic show on Jan. 19 in the Ucluelet Harbour. (Nora O’Malley photo)

UPDATED: Vancouver Island paddle boarder’s orca encounter brings joy and outrage

Woman’s ‘best day’ criticized for disturbing the whales

Christie Jamieson was out for a stand-up paddleboard (SUP) outing when a pod of transient orcas made a dramatic appearance in the Ucluelet Harbour.

“My whole body is still shaking. I don’t even know what to do with this energy. I don’t even know how to explain it. It’s the best adrenaline ever,” Jamieson said.

Jamieson, a former SUP instructor and whale-watching industry staff member, said she set out on the water at around 9:30 a.m. on Jan. 19 and was on her board for almost three hours. She said she was keeping a safe distance and wasn’t being aggressive or trying to paddle in the middle of the pod.

“At a certain point, they came my way. It’s not like I can paddle away from them. I’m not going to put my paddle in when they are coming towards me because that will look like a seal or a sea lion, so at that point you just have to sit there.

“I don’t get scared of them ever. It’s almost like I’d rather be in the water than on the board. I would love to be an underwater animal photographer. That would be my absolute dream,” Jamieson said.

“Every single time I see whales, it doesn’t matter if it’s orcas or humpbacks, greys, I always cry when I get that close to them.”

Icon Developments also captured the orca visit on video, and posted it to their Twitter account (@jamieiconcarson).

A few summers ago, Jamieson was treated to a similar killer whale encounter in the Ucluelet Harbour, and she’s also paddled beside humpbacks.

Many locals raised concerns about boaters, including Jamieson on her self-propelled SUP, getting too close to the whales during the Jan. 19 appearance and thus violating the Marine Mammal Regulations.

Under Canada’s Fisheries Act, people must keep 200 metres away from killer whales in the B.C. Pacific Ocean, and 400 metres away from killer whales in southern B.C. coastal waters between Campbell River and just north of Ucluelet (June 1 – May 31). Vessel operators are also asked to turn off their echo sounders and turn engines to neutral idle, if safe to do so, when a whale is within 400 metres.

Ucluelet First Nation member Tissa Deline said she was watching the orcas from Whiskey Dock when she saw someone run down to the water with a SUP.

“I was outraged by what I saw and stuck watching my workplace’s front door while I watched in horror as she paddled out into the very middle of a six orca pod that included two calves learning to hunt. I’m incredibly disheartened and outraged,” Deline wrote in an email to the Westerly.


Stand up paddleboarder Christie Jamieson watches a pod of orcas on Jan. 19, 2021 in the Ucluelet Harbour. (Nora O’Malley photos)

Marine Education and Research Society reacts

Jackie Hildering is a communications liaison for the Marine Education and Research Society (MERS), an organization dedicated to promoting conservation and understanding of marine ecosystems through scientific research, environmental education, and marine wildlife response.

Hildering says Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is investigating the events of Jan. 19 for violation of the Marine Mammals Regulations Fisheries Act.

“It’s unflinching and non-debatable whether this was a violation of the law. There is an ongoing investigation to see what this actually leads to,” Hildering told the Westerly on Jan. 20 from the MERS office in Port McNeill.

“If the paddle boarder was outside 200 metres and viewing the orca, there would be no violation. Moving or positioning within 200 meters with intent to target the whales is a violation. But this isn’t about the vilification of this individual. This is an opportunity to learn about what is legal and what is not.”

Hildering notes the Marine Mammal Regulations are for motorized and non-motorized vessels.

“Disturbance goes beyond noise. There is research that supports that even the presence of a vessel is impacting the life processes of the whales,” she said, adding that if in doubt, it’s best to stay further away.

“Something like this is directing negative attention to whale watching,” Hildering said.

MERS colleague Jared Towers identified members of the orca pod to be the T109C and T028A matrilines of Bigg’s Killer Whales (the mammal-hunting population).

Anyone that may have witnessed an incident of concern, is encouraged to call the DFO Incident Reporting Line at 1-800-465-4336.

(This story has been updated from the original to reflect reaction to the encounter)


How far is 200 metres? graphic by Fisheries and Oceans Canada



nora.omalley@westerlynews.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

READ: Washed up Risso’s dolphin offers glimpse into “whole other world” near Tofino

VIDEO: Seal hunting, not being hunted in video shot off Victoria waterfront

Orcaucluelet

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

International Women’s Day is March 8, 2021. (Internationalwomensday.com)
International Women’s Day 2021: #choosetochallenge

International Women’s Day is marked annually on March 8

Amanda Parsons, a registered nurse on staff at the Northwood Care facility, prepares a dose of the Moderna vaccine in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. Almost two in three Canadians surveyed recently said they trust COVID-19 vaccines to be both safe and effective. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Northern Health to open 30 COVID vaccine clinics for oldest residents, Indigenous seniors

Health authority says it plans to vaccinate nearly 15,000 people in Phase Two

(899 Vanderhoof Air Cadets/Facebook)
Vanderhoof Air Cadets to hold fundraising raffle this summer

Winners will be announced in May this year

Artemis Gold is taking a different approach with the Blackwater Project. The company will be working in three phases. The average gold production at Blackwater will be 248,000 ounces in Phase 1, 420,000 ounces in Phase 2 and 316,000 ounces in Phase 3. (Submitted image)
Artemis Gold provides update on Blackwater Gold Project

Ore grade control drilling, metallurgical test work and more being conducted

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

Ron Sivorot, business director at Kennametal’s Langford site, the Greater Victoria facility that made a component being used on NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars. (Jake Romphf, Black Press Media)
NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover digging in with B.C.-made part

Kennametal’s Langford plant’s tooth blank is helping the rover’s drill collect rock cores

A woman walks through Toronto’s financial district on Monday, July 30, 2018. A new poll suggests most Canadians believe there’s still a long way to go to achieve gender equality in this country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Canadians, especially women, say gender equality not achieved in Canada: Poll

Poll results themselves underscore the challenge, with more men believing equality had been achieved

This image provided by Harpo Productions shows Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, left, in conversation with Oprah Winfrey. (Joe Pugliese/Harpo Productions via AP)
Race, title and anguish: Meghan and Harry explain royal rift

Meghan said she struggled with concerns within the royal family about her son’s skin colour

Const. Allan Young. Photo: Abbotsford Police Department
Manslaughter charge laid in Nelson death of Abbotsford police officer

Allan Young died after an incident in downtown Nelson last summer

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is administered to a personal support worker at the Ottawa Hospital on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020 in Ottawa. Doctors in Alberta have signed an open letter asking for prioritized vaccination of health-care staff who work directly with patients on dedicated COVID-19 units. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
COVID vaccines for seniors in B.C.: Here’s how to sign up

Seniors 90+, Indigenous seniors 65+ and Indigenous Elders can book starting March 8

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

Most Read