Ron LeValley showed up three days after the Oct 19, 2009 whale strike at the site where the dead animal was beached, in a very tight narrow cove about a mile south of Fort Bragg. I was also there. When questions were raised during those first few days about how the accident had occurred, it was established that the vessel Pacific Star was using side-scan and multi-beam sonar for hydrographic surveys.
Initially there had been rumors that the vessel was doing oil/gas drilling surveys, but it was actually doing underwater mapping in preparation for the North Coast Marine Life Protection Act Initiative. (MLPAI)
At the scene, Ron proclaimed himself a “whale expert” and started making very public and adamant statements – to the press and anyone who would listen – that the vessel’s hydrographic sonar had nothing to do with the whale strike. He claimed it was the same type of sonar that fishing boats use, that sonar only affects toothed whales, not baleen whales, that it was just a freak accident, and the ships powerful mapping sonar had nothing to do with it.
He presented a public slide show on whales in the following weeks, where he expressed these beliefs, and claimed that a whale feeding on plankton is no smarter than a cow grazing on grass.
This had many people’s heads scratching. Why would a trained biologist make statements that fly in the face of fact? To even do hydrographic surveys in California waters, you are required to have a special permit, costing $5,000, that regulates sonar surveys – specifically for the protection of marine mammals, who are definitely adversely affected by sonar. As a biologist and whale expert, Mr. LeValley certainly must have known this.
It was later learned that the Pacific Star did not possess a valid “Marine Geophysical Survey Permit” at the time of the accident, nor were they operating under the terms of the permit, which requires a lookout at all times (a “marine mammal observer”).
When apprised of this, Mr. LeValley went on to claim at that this didn’t matter, that the accident would have happened anyhow, and because of the way blue whales surface unexpectedly, an observer wouldn’t have seen her.
This also is contrary to the opinion of real whale experts. The legally required marine mammal observer doing their job would have almost certainly noticed the whale in the vicinity, and made the captain and crew aware of her presence.
Going back to a few days after the accident – The property owners’ had to figure out what to do with an extremely foul smelling carcass that would have made life unbearable in their homes. It would have been logical to attach long cables at high tide, and tow her back out to sea.
But Mr. LeValley assured the headland property owners that he could secure funding to haul the beast up the cliffs, by helicopter if necessary, to remove the carcass and bury the bones until the microbes ate them clean.
This was done. A large crew of volunteers and paid workers, including a couple of heavy equipment operators, worked for almost two weeks, pulling macabre slabs of rotting flesh and bloody bones up the cliff. The bones were buried at a secret location in the woods east of Fort Bragg.
Why the cover-up? And who paid for it?
Some speculate that the private billionaire sponsors of the MLPAI (shielded by the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation) knew they had a public relations nightmare on their hands when their MLPA mapping vessel killed the whale. LeValley may have been their point man, to ameliorate the situation as best he could, and avoid any bad publicity. Whether this is true or not remains to be seen.
But two months after the accident, Mr. LeValley was chosen as a Co-Chair for the North Coast “Science Advisory Team” for the MLPAI. Although officially chosen for his extensive and well-respected knowledge on birds, LeValley has been a strong advocate for the marine closures to fishing and gathering by a corrupt, privately sponsored MLPA Initiative, before, during and after the whale strike incident. He also stands to personally benefit from the fishing and gathering closure zones, as a long time “eco-tours” operator.