Monday, July 23, 2012

Fishing boat hits whale in Broken Island Group

The big news on CBC radio this morning is about a couple out fishing in their new boat, who collided with a gray whale on Friday. This was not good news, but the humans are fine and they felt the whale was uninjured.
There are articles about the collision on the Vancouver Sun website, and the Victoria Times-Colonist site. The couple, Joe and Shirley Antonelli, have posted a video on YouTube, edited from the video the woman was making as the collision occurred.
Based on what Shirley Antonelli said on CBC Radio One this morning, and on her comments in the newspapers, the couple was fishing off Effingham Island near Ucluelet. They had set out Friday morning in a boat they've used six times since they bought it in June. By ten in the morning, they'd been fishing for three hours and caught three chinook salmon. "We were completely surrounded by whales," Shirley told reporter Heather Thompson. "We joked about hitting one."
And they did.
While their video is titled "Fishing adventure and whale attacks" -- it's pretty clear that this is NOT a whale attack. The articles mention that Shirley felt that their fishing gear had struck a whale. (They were using downriggers with weights called "cannon balls.") During the radio interview, Shirley said that they were surrounded by gray whales, very close to the boat.

Let's just pause here to review the Department of Fisheries and Oceans regulations for whale-watching, for the safety of marine mammals and turtles. Check out their website, but it boils down to:
-Don't come any closer than 100 metres to a whale
-Reduce speed if the whale comes within 400 metres and watch out!
-Don't follow the whale or get in its path

Bottom line: we in the boats are the humans. We must make room for the whales to feed and travel where they need to be. New boat users MUST be helped by their friends and associates to understand that these rules are for our safety as well as for the safety of the whales and other animals.

This collision was NOT a whale attack. It happened because the humans were fishing for hours in an area where the whales needed to be. The humans let their boat get far too close to whales for far too long.
As Shirley said on the radio, it felt like the whale came up to look at them and give them a shove. The Antonellis are just lucky that they were able to reel in all their gear without leaving any of it hooked in a whale. The whale in the video did not look well after the collision.

Even little kayaks and canoes can be annoying or distressing to whales and other large sea animals. Give them lots of room! We can buy food, and we can go boating in other places. Let the sea animals be where they need to be to eat and live.
And thank you, John, for buying big telephoto lenses for your camera, so you don't need to get too close to marine life to get those marvelous pictures you take for the blog.


  1. Thank you so very much for this enlightened, comprehensive assessment of what was not an attack. Lots of discussion going on including at . Have shared your blog post widely.
    Jackie Hildering

    1. Glad to hear you're sharing our blog post. The whale collision was a mistake that didn't have to happen. If we all help each other be good neighbours on the water, there will be a lot fewer collisions with whales.

  2. Thanks for sharing this. It really helps people to be more aware about the whale in Broken Island.