This isn’t the first time standup paddler Rich German has been up close with a pod of whales. But his encounter this week, in which he left the safety of his boat and stood on his paddle board during a whale watching orca encounter has some people miffed.
How close is too close to marine life – and does it affect their behaviour?
For great white sharks, the answer is simple. You’re fine as long as you stay in a cage (and don’t take a ‘shark selfie!). No petting, no matter how close they get, and just observe, experience, and tune in to your place in the food chain. But orcas?
I’ll let you decide after watching this video, of German, as he films the orcas from what some folks are calling a dangerously close proximity. Early in the video, one of the orcas, aptly named ‘Bumper’, passes directly beneath him – and it’s safe to say there wouldn’t be much keeping German on his trusty paddler board should Bumper choose to live up to his name.
Earlier in the summer, German was criticized for getting too close to a blue whale – which happens to be the largest creature on the planet. That was enough to irk federal authorities, who investigated whether he violated the Marine Mammal Protection Act. This didn’t win him friends among observers or the whale watching community because of the growing trend of folks who pursue and harass marine life.
And that’s a story to itself, because some whale watching operators have been accused of getting too close as well – it’s been a problem in the Pacific Northwest for years. So when a whale watching operator says a paddler is getting too close, well, he’s probably close enough to tickle the whale’s belly.
Of course, it’s a beautiful moment. There’s no question this guy connects with these creatures, and he’s got a beautiful video to show for his efforts. My take? I like his intentions, but he’s too close. A little common sense, dear paddler. Watch from a distance and savor it with safety – both yours and the orcas.