A Campbell River man suffered a broken jaw and lost teeth after his fiberglass boat collided with a whale, believed to be a humpback, last Wednesday off the east coast of North Vancouver Island.
Ray Boyd underwent reconstructive surgery following the incident, which occurred on windy, choppy seas near the mouth of Eve River. The Grady White boat was left with a cracked hull from the impact.
Staff from the Marine Education and Research Society (MERS) went out in an attempt to find the whale but were unsuccessful.
Marine researcher Jackie Hildering said the incident pointed out the importance of educating the public on awareness of the unpredictability of whale encounters and the need for awareness.
“Baleen whales surface unpredictably, much different from how boat operators are conditioned to expect as their experience is most often with killer whales,” Hildering said. “Humpbacks are new back to the coast and are in unpredictable locations.”
It appears Boyd had no idea there was a whale in the vicinity until it breached directly in front of his boat. The wind and whitecaps may have masked the distinctive mist of its blowing.
“If I’d have even seen a sign a whale was there I would have slowed down and turned off-course,” Boyd said in an interview last week with CTV News.
The report of the incident was relayed to Paul Cottrell, coordinator of the DFO’s Marine Mammal Response Network, said Hildering, who emphasized boaters should report any whale strike or near-miss to the MMRN’s incident reporting hotline at 1-800-465-4336. She said all information reported can be used to learn more about behavioural patterns, of both whales and boaters, and assist in prevention of future incidents.
“We’re even more motivated now to create awareness of how baleen whales can unpredictably surface,” said Hildering. “For human safety’s sake as well as the whales’ sake.”