The Canadian navy halted a live-fire explosives exercise near Nanoose Bay on Wednesday after a whale-watching crew warned that a pod of orcas was arriving in the area.
J-pod, which includes three calves less than a year old, was heading south of Qualicum and into the path of the active military exercise in the Strait of Georgia off Nanoose Bay, said Dan Kukat, owner of SpringTide Whale Watching.
Kukat was informed of the whales’ movements by another operator about 4 p.m., so he called a contact with the Canadian Forces and explained the potentially dangerous situation.
“She and the navy were very responsive and able to bring a halt to the exercise, allowing the whales to transit the area unharmed,” Kukat said.
The whale-watching boats were aware of the live-fire exercise because of a notice to mariners the navy sends any time explosives testing is being carried out, Kukat said.
A similar incident happened in July 2014, when the Canadian Forces suspended an explosives exercise near Bentinck Island after a whale-watching company alerted them to approaching orcas. Bentinck Island, near Race Rocks Ecological Reserve, is used by the military as a demolition range and test site for explosives.
“I must say the Canadian navy has proven to be very responsive to the plight of these endangered animals,” Kukat said.
J-pod, which has about 25 members, is one of three southern resident orca pods. Three calves have been born to group in the past seven months.