Too close? Whale watching trial begins in St. John's

Too close? Whale watching trial begins in St. John's

The trial of a Newfoundland skipper charged with bringing a boatload of tourists too close to whales near Cape Spear in 2014 got underway in provincial court in St. John's Wednesday, in a case that will extend into July.

Walter Reddick, 63, is charged under the Fisheries Act with disturbing a marine mammal, the first time such charges have been laid in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The tour boat, Cetacean Quest, was videotaped by a CBC Television crew that was doing a story about scientists who were studying whales near St. John's.

The videotape, subpoaened under a court order, was entered as evidence in the trial.

Fisheries officer Kerry Bungay said the investigation was prompted by an email from DFO scientist Jack Lawson, who was on the water with CBC in an inflatable Zodiac, and who reported what he called "whale harassment."

Bungay told court his assessment that boats were within 100 metres of whales was based on the video seen online.

Operator of second boat testifies

The operator of a smaller boat that was also on the water that day took the stand Wednesday afternoon.

Cyril Garland, who was not charged, had taken four people out for the recreational cod fishery. The group was whale watching on the way home.

Garland said they pointed out the whale when the larger tour boat arrived 10-15 minutes later, and the tour boat came between his boat and the whale.

"It was very close to my boat," he said, telling the court he was "furious."

Mad enough, he said, to complain to the tour company onshore as well as to the coast guard.

While two days were set aside for the trial this week, court was told Wednesday that won't be enough. More time has been booked to continue testimony from July 11 through July 14.

The owner of the tour boat, Iceberg Quest Ocean Tours, is also charged and is due in court in June to be tried separately.