Bellingham replica whale heads to Oregon to scare sea lions

The Island Mariner’s life-size replica orca is ready to begin its mission of scaring away sea lions in Astoria, Ore.

The whale departed Bellingham on Wednesday, June 3, on a boat trailer and was expected to be in the Oregon waters Thursday in an attempt to move hundreds of sea lions away from the Astoria docks, said Reid Petersen, media manager and deck hand at Island Mariner Cruises.

The Port of Astoria hired Island Mariner, which has offered whale-watching cruises for 53 years, after several other attempts to get the sea lions to move along were unsuccessful.

Typically the replica whale serves as a good landmark near Squalicum Harbor for local residents giving directions to those unfamiliar with the area. It is near where the Island Mariner is docked.

The whale, originally built by Island Mariner owner Terry Buzzard in the mid-1980s, is now outfitted with a Suzuki eight-horsepower outboard motor and speakers. While in the water it will play recordings of orcas out hunting to see if it will fool the sea lions into leaving.

Petersen said it’s not clear whether this will work, so what they do next will depend on what happens once they get into the water.

If anything, the plan already has generated plenty of national media coverage. It’s also led to a spike of visitors to the Island Mariner’s social media sites, Petersen said.