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