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Playful whale killed by prop

MARCH 14 A killer whale that got separated from its pod in Canada’s Nootka Sound five years ago was apparently killed Friday after an encounter with a tugboat.

Canadian authorities said the whale, nicknamed Luna, appeared to have been sucked into the propellers of an ocean tugboat in the sound, off Vancouver Island, news reports say. Lifeforce Foundation, an environmental group in British Columbia, is seeking an inquiry into Luna’s apparent death to see how to prevent a similar accident from happening again.

“Luna’s death shouldn’t be in vain, so an independent committee should be set up to look at why Luna was not returned to his family when another orca in another similar situation was successfully returned to her family,” the group says in a release.

Luna became separated from his family in 2001, according to scientists. The young male whale often played with boats in the sound, in what some say was a search for companionship, reports say.

Having disabled a number of boats by damaging rudders and knocking off transponders, Luna became a nuisance to many boaters, according to reports. Members of Fisheries and Oceans Canada considered relocating Luna from the sound so he could reconnect with his pod. Members of the Mowachaht-Muchalaht First Nations group of indigenous people — who believed that Luna was the reincarnated spirit of their former chief who died the day before the whale appeared — stymied the effort.

In a similar incident, U.S. federal authorities said Friday that a humpback whale calf was injured off Maui, Hawaii, when a Pacific Whale Foundation whale-watching tour boat collided with it, reports say. Investigators said the whale suffered “serious injury” to its right pectoral fin and an injury of “unknown severity to the head region.”

— Jason Fell