OceanWall at Hillside Centre to open a window to Pacific

A huge screen being installed in Hillside Centre will showcase videos from the Salish Sea in Christopher Porter’s latest campaign to raise awareness about the fragility of the Pacific Ocean.

Porter, 44, once trained killer whales in aquariums. He was featured in the 2013 documentary film Blackfish. Today, he is an activist concentrating on saving orcas in their marine environment.

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The aim of the OceanWall display opening in Hillside Centre’s food court Nov. 8 is to “get the general public to focus on the wild and the state of the wild as it is,” Porter said Thursday. He believes that more knowledge and appreciation of the environment will help preserve it and assist species in danger.

Porter wants the public to “understand the animals we are trying to protect.” Images can cover everything from whales and otters to grizzly bears feasting on salmon.

The message will get plenty of exposure. There are more than five million visits to Hillside Centre every year, the shopping centre said.

Visitors will see videos of marine life in the Salish Sea displayed on the 3.7-metre-high, 2.1-metre-wide wall, made up of nine screens.

The display also features a Greater Victoria high-tech product. Two interactive touch screens, called iBoards, produced by iBoard Canada Manufacturing Inc. of Victoria, are a key part of the OceanWall. They are educational tools for youngsters, who will be able see favourite videos replayed on the large screen and access information.

A former head trainer at the Vancouver Aquarium and a trainer at Sealand of the Pacific in Oak Bay, Porter found himself in the midst of an international uproar in the mid-2000s over his capture of dolphins near the Solomon Islands for the tourist industry. He later gave up the dolphin trade and became an activist for marine mammals.

The Blackfish documentary centers on the tragic tale of killer whale Tilikum, once kept at Sealand. Sealand trainer Keltie Byrne drowned in a Sealand pool occupied by Tilikum and two other orcas in 1991. The next year, Tilikum was moved to SeaWorld Orlando, Florida, where he remains.

In the film, Porter recounted his goodbye to Tilikum in Oak Bay, saying tearfully, “OK, Tilly, you’re going to Disneyland. Lucky you!”

Porter is among a group of Vancouver Island investors who founded WildVision Edutainment this year. The Hillside OceanWall is their prototype. Total equipment costs could reach $120,000, he said.

Videos will run from several seconds to five minutes long, he said. Contributors have provided content and the public will be able to submit videos to WildVision to be played on the big screen. A kayaker with a GoPro, for example, could submit video. The company will be able to tell people what time their clips are running, Porter said, noting footage will be updated regularly.

Videos will not be narrated. Further information will be rolled out on the interactive screens below the large display. In the new year, Porter is planning to bring in experts to talk about issues affecting the marine environment.

The OceanWall is being set up in the shopping centre under a five-year agreement. Porter is hoping to expand into other venues such as spas, hotel lobbies and gymnasiums. He’s also been talking to schools about the iBoards.

Michele Paget, marketing director for Hillside Centre, said in a statement: “The shopping centre has always been a place for people to gather. Now, with the OceanWall, we can provide a unique experience to our customers. We now have the opportunity to educate and enrich the lives of our visitors.”

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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