Sooke Harbour: News:
Luna Killer Whale
Luna's family surfaces at Sooke
Chance of natural reunion takes a dive, experts say
Lavoie, Times Colonist
Tuesday, June 08, 2004
It was difficult to detect the family
resemblance as the black dorsal fins sliced through the water near
But for whale experts, the orcas swimming in the Juan de Fuca Strait
confirmed that L-Pod is back in its summer feeding grounds. That
means the chance has plummeted for a natural reunion between Luna,
the lonesome orca hanging out in Nootka Sound, and members of his
A male member of
L-Pod, Luna's family, forages for food off Gordon Beach Monday. The
pod was also sighted off Clover Point in Victoria earlier in the
day. PHOTO CREDIT: Deddeda Stemler, Times Colonist
The whale turned up in Nootka Sound three years ago and, without an
orca family, he turned his attention to boats, floatplanes and
Two plans were put together by the Department of Fisheries and
Oceans and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA) for reuniting four-year-old Luna with his pod.
Hopes ran high for the option which would have seen Luna led to the
mouth of Nootka Sound as L-Pod was in the area.
However, most of the pod chose to come down the east coast of
Vancouver Island, instead of the more usual west coast route, and a
decision is likely to be taken today on whether Plan B should start
Luna would be captured in a net pen in Gold River, then trucked down
the Island to Pedder Bay where he would be put in another net pen
until the pod passes by.
DFO marine mammal co-ordinator Marilyn Joyce said a decision will
depend on whether the operation should go ahead despite a funding
shortfall and whether there is any hope that a natural reunion is
Although most members of L Pod, including Luna's mother and sibling,
are already in the Victoria area, a small number of the pod are
missing and could still be off the Island's west coast where they
were spotted last month.
Paul Spong of Orcalab and Ken Balcomb, director of the Center for
Whale Research in Friday Harbor, agree that the lead-out method is
now a long shot.
But there is still a remote hope that Luna could be persuaded to
join K Pod if it comes within acoustic range, Spong said.
"Luna's natural place is beside his mom and with his immediate
family, but I think he would be very comfortable with the K's
because he spent much of his early life with them," he said.
Balcomb said most people are assuming the move will now have to go
There should be few problems transporting the whale and it is almost
certain that Luna will give up his affection for boats if he is in
the company of whales, he said.
"We will be watching him as much as we can to see if he is acting
normally socially," Balcomb said.
Fascinated tourists watched the orcas Monday afternoon as they were
given a quick Luna lesson.
"We have a little, lost whale," Brandon Harvey, skipper and
biologist for Prince of Whales, explained to his Zodiac passengers.
The whale-watching industry has been told monitoring vessels will
enforce a two kilometre no-go zone around the pod if Luna is brought
to the Juan de Fuca Strait, Harvey said.
"If we see him we're to hit the throttle and get out of there. We're
to act as if he's the plague," he said.
The summer range of the L-Pod whales can be from the Strait of
Georgia to the San Juan Islands and over to Jordan River, and they
can cover 100 nautical miles a day, so Luna's presence would
complicate life for whale-watching vessels.
However, it is recreational boaters -- not the regulated
whale-watching industry -- which is likely to be the problem, said
Harvey, as a small blue boat sped into the middle of a line of L Pod
There are mixed feelings about the risks of a move and what the
future will hold if Luna continues to cosy up to boats.
"But we all ultimately want the best for the whale. I hope he
eventually figures out that he doesn't want to be single any more,"
Harvey said, steering the boat into Pedder Bay where the net pen
will be set up.
The area, flanked by Department of National Defence land and William
Head prison, has a history for killer whales, Harvey told his
It is the area where, in the late 1960s and 1970s, whales were
driven and captured for aquariums.
"This is going to be a place of controversy once again," he said.
© Copyright 2004 Times Colonist (Victoria)
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