WHALE RESEARCH IN GITGA'AT TERRITORY
PACIFIC WHALE SOCIETY
Within the traditional territory of the Gitga’at First Nation, the non-profit ‘Pacific Whale Society’ conducts land based acoustic and visual whale research from its base camp on Gil Island. Known locally as ‘Whale Point’, the research lab is the only year-round whale observation facility along the north coast of British Columbia.
Are whales individuals with the ability to self-awareness and intelligence? Janie Wray and Hermann Meuter are firmly convinced. For 15 years, the two whale researchers document the behavior of orcas, humpback and fin whales on the west coast of Canada.
70 miles from their research stations lies the small coastal town of Kitimat. Here a gigantic export plant for liquid gas (LNG) is planned. On supertankers, the gas is to be exported to Asia. What the tanker route for the whales will mean is not foreseeable.
The Gitga'at First Nation, living in the small town of Hartley Bay, has also bowed to pressure from industry and government after a decade-long struggle and agreed that hundreds of supertankers will be driving through the fjords of their territory in the future.
In the stories of the First Nations, the first inhabitants of this coast, the sea is described as the "underwater kingdom". "Orca Chief" watches over the inhabitants of the sea and puts irreverent people in their place. In an animated sequence, narrated with images by the artist Roy Henry Vickers, the story of Orca-Chief makes it clear that this region is also about different concepts of our world: the industrial exploitation of the sea versus the sea as a source of food, long term to obtain.
In her film, director Mirjam Leuze raises the question of whether we humans have the right to shape the world according to our needs. What if self-perception, compassion, and thought were not all human abilities?
Close to the two whale researchers Hermann Meuter and Janie Wray, the film gives a deep insight into a unique biotope.