HUMOUR — The sea lions of Race Rocks Ecological Reserve are not happy. In a letter to Victoria’s Mayor Dean Fortin — legible only to UVic’s Earth and Ocean Sciences department — Wolfie the 800-pound bull claimed that tour companies such as Prince of Whales Whale Watching and Orca Spirit Adventures are exploiting his colony. The Martlet equipped a reporter with a dry suit, snorkel, flippers and a freezer bag stuffed with calamari and sent him swimming down the Strait of Juan de Fuca to find out what the hubbub was about.
WOLFIE: I watched you from this rock the whole way. Gotta say I’m amazed you made it.
MARTLET: I dog-paddled toward the end.
W: Maybe I should have sent my pups to give you a lift.
M: No sweat. I appreciate you giving your time. I imagine you’re busy being the alpha bull.
W: I am. Tight schedule. For the next two hours, I’ve got to bark on top of this rock and slap down anyone who sets their fins too close to me.
M: Sounds like a Pacific version of King of the Hill.
W: More like a blubbery orgy. After, I’ll take a swim, dip by that tide pool for a little lunch. Then I’ll relocate to that rock over there. Have some thinking time.
M: So this business with the whale tours . . .
W: It’s self-explanatory, isn’t it? “Whale tours” — you just said it. That’s what they call themselves. It’s all about the whales. But do you know what the whale tours bank on to get views of the whales? Me and my colony lounging on these rocks. The tour boats come past us ’cause the whales circle around here like underwater vultures. We’re dinner theatre entertainment. Dying meat. The reason the tours are so successful. And we don’t even get any recognition. Nothing. We’re up against the orcas. How many of them are pulling their weight for the spectators? Nowhere near as many as we sea lions. We’re — arrff — we’re — arrff — the 99 per cent!
M: Wow. I was unaware of all of this.
W: Just ’cause we don’t echolocate doesn’t mean we don’t matter. I just — oh, I get so angry just thinking about it I can’t even articulate myself sometimes I just — arrff — get so emotional and — arrff. Sorry. You’re plugging your ears. I can try and stop.
M: No point; all the others are barking too.
W: We’re outraged is all. We could be taking the easy route. We could be sloshing around in Fisherman’s Wharf, nomming whatever the house-boaters throw to us. Shit, I could be someplace with a little more sunshine; I’ve got a cousin down in Frisco whose only bad day is when someone doesn’t throw down a bit of burrito for him from the docks. But we’re here in the north, on this rock.
M: There must be a way to raise awareness.
W: Don’t kid yourself. Look at the media. I’m talking movies from the ’90s. The orcas got Free Willy. The closest thing we got to decent representation was Andre. Remember that kid and the seal and the dancing act? I didn’t think so. Everybody knows about Keiko the killer whale. No one gives a shit about Andre.