Gray whales continue to wash up dead and emaciated, but causes remain elusive
Gustave Ducharme, one of the best-known of all whale hunters, died April 6 at the age of 83, a little more than 25 years after first visiting the B.C. coast to try to catch a killer whale.
Known to many as “Duch, the Shark Hunter,” his death is a tragedy for all of us who love whales.
At the time of his death, Duch was the oldest active whaleman to have died; Duch went back to work with D’Arcy Watson, who helped Duch hunt and tag humpbacks in southern B.C. for much of the rest of his life.
Duch was the driving force behind Watson’s whale hunting expeditions, and a key part of Watson’s legacy. Duch and Watson worked together to establish D’Arcy Watson’s Whaling Museum in Langara, N.W.T., where many of Duch’s and Watson’s whale and marine mammal finds are on display.
Duch was a whaling legend, but his extraordinary record of success in pursuing and killing large whales didn’t come without controversy.
In the 1960s, Duch was criticized by many in the industry for being both reckless and negligent, and for using illegal methods to catch whales. In his book “Whales We Hunted,” Duch wrote about his time hunting large whale species, including humpback, fin and blue whales and right whales. “I saw an enormous fin whale on the B.C. coast, which left me with the impression that she was a whale that I would like to encounter on the open ocean.”
Duch wrote that he knew of a humpback whale that he felt might not be dead, but that he felt it was unlikely that the animal would come within five km of shore since it was feeding on fish schools.
He said he did a visual inspection of the whale and found no signs of severe weather such