In Gold River, British Columbia, a woman will have to pay a $74 fine for petting a killer whale.
Sandra Bohn could have been fined much more under the Canadian Federal Fisheries Act’s marine mammal regulations. Whale watchers are now warned that the amount and severity of this infraction will be much worse in the future according to local officials.
CMP Cpl. Jacquie Olsen said that while the fine was small, it was meant to send a message to others in the future about the laws that protect these creatures.
"This is the first offense of this kind that’s ever been heard in court," Olsen said.
Bohn admitted petting the 3-year-old male orca known as Luna, who was separated from its family group and has settled in the remote waters on the west side of Canada’s Vancouver Island.
The fear for Luna has been his growing familiarity with people. Marine mammal experts say physical contact such as touching or petting a whale has the potential for changing its patterns of behavior and could lessen its chances of rejoining its pod, or clan if the opportunity arises.
Bohn said after the court hearing that residents of this town on the west coast of Vancouver Island have been petting Luna for the last couple of years. She said she was at the wharf on Nootka Sound with four or five others when she was cited Feb. 7.
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