'War games' may be to blame for orca's death

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SEATTLE —

War games conducted by the Canadian Navy may be to blame for the death of a killer whale that washed ashore on the southern Washington coast in February.

The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service is investigating the death of the L-pod whale designated L112 -- also known both as Sooke and Little Victoria.  She was first spotted in January 2009 off the Victoria waterfront. 

"This poor little whale didn't do anything except swim in the wrong area at the wrong time," said Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research at Friday Harbor.

Balcomb said the postmortem examination showed the whale did not die of natural causes.

The cause was most likely "a pressure-type trauma, probably from an explosion, a nearby, huge pressure field that almost instantly killed this little whale," he said.

A few days before the whale washed ashore at Long Beach, a Canadian naval vessel, the HMCS Ottawa, was doing sonar tests near where the 'L' had been spotted.  Balcomb and other whale experts have long fought to stop the tests by both the Canadian and U.S. navies, arguing they endanger the lives of the sea mammals.

Now, he says, they may have proof.

"We may have the smoking gun here."

Center for Whale Reserach L112 updates