Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Canadian link probed in orca's death

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VANCOUVER -- The bloodied and battered corpse of a young killer whale whose death may be linked to Canadian war games has prompted an investigation by U.S. authorities.

The body of the southern resident orca, an endangered species in the United States, was discovered on Long Beach in Washington state in February, just days after HMCS Ottawa conducted sonar training exercises in the waters off Victoria, B.C.

A preliminary examination indicated significant trauma around the head, chest and right side of the orca known as L112, but results of necropsy and pathology tests and a scan of the animal's head are incomplete.

Just hours after the navy sonar tests were heard, southern resident killer whales were spotted in the same area in the Haro Strait that divides Canada and the United States.

The law enforcement office of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has launched an investigation into the death.

Brian Gorman, with NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service, said investigators haven't made a connection between the naval exercise and the death of the whale. Gorman said the investigation will attempt to determine if there's been a violation of the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Scott Veirs, an oceanographer and president of Beam Reach Marine Science and Sustainability School, has been trying to piece together the puzzle of L112's death and hasn't ruled out the Canadian navy. "To me, it's the most plausible connection," he said.

No one at the Department of National Defence or Defence Minister Peter MacKay's office returned a request for an interview.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 10, 2012 A8

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