two black and white dolphins swimming in the water

Love Whales? You’ll want to read this!

Both whales and whale lovers have lots to celebrate. Over the course of the past several years, protection and treatment of whales has been gaining both increased media coverage and political momentum. New pledges, policies and regulations are gaining ground and can result in the betterment of the lives of whales. Here’s a list of several of these exciting developments:

National Geographic Highlights Study: No Adverse Affects from Ecotourism on Marine Mammals

According to the article,“Ecotourism done right cannot only work, but it can work well.” Despite increasing amounts of tourism to see whales and other marine mammals in their natural habitat, a new study states marine mammal-based tourism, if conducted properly and on a sustainable basis is a “benign” industry. Benefits of marine mammal-based ecotourism range from a better appreciation of the marine environment to bolstering local economies. Read more within the book Ecotourism’s Promise and Peril: A Biological Evaluation (Blumstein, D.T., Geffroy, B., Samia, D.S.M., Bessa, E., Eds.; Springer, 2017)

Pledge by Virgin and Sir Richard Branson

Richard Branson and his company Virgin have asked marine parks, holiday companies and airlines around the world to join his pledge not to remove whales and dolphins from the ocean.

The Virgin Pledge requires organizations:

  • To participate in a Virgin-led multi-stakeholder engagement process on the role of captive cetaceans in tourism.
  • To no longer capture cetaceans (including whales and dolphins) or acquire any wild-captured cetaceans.
  • To only accept ill, orphaned or injured wild cetaceans deemed non-releasable by the appropriate government authorities.

Part of the team’s work is an active partnership with the World Cetacean Alliance.

Vancouver Aquarium no longer will keep whales and dolphins from captivity

January, 2018 –  After the Vancouver Park Board voted to prevent the aquarium from bringing in any new whales and dolphins, the Vancouver Aquarium has giving up its fight to keep whales and dolphins in captivity, saying the heated public debate on the issue is hindering its conservation work. Fortunately, the decision to end the cetacean program won’t affect the aquarium’s great work in rescuing stranded and distressed whales and dolphins. Read More.

April, 2014 – While recognizing the amazing conservation and marine biology work undertaken by the Vancouver Aquarium, two Vancouver park commissioners Sarah Blyth and Constance Barnes have taken positions that it’s time to remove the belugas, porpoises and dolphins from captivity at the facility. The mayor of Vancouver has also weighed in stating that he believes the whales and dolphins should be phased out. Read more at Global News and CBC.

California bill to Ban Captive Orcas (and 1.2 Million signatures of support!)

September, 2016 – California outlaws both captive orca breeding and the use of orcas in entertainment. The bill prohibits the collection of orca genetic material for the purpose of breeding, and restricts the exportation and sale of orcas to other states and countries. The bill also requires that facilities keeping orcas captive use them only for scientific, educational or rescue purposes. Find out more here.

April, 2014 – A US Senate bill (AB 2140) intended to ban captive orca shows in the state of California as well as ban orca breeding programs and the importing of orcas was sent for interim study by the Assembly Water, Parks & Wildlife Committee of the California Legislature. They ordered that the bill be revised and returned to the committee in a year and a half. Support for the bill included an impressive 1.2 Million signatures. If passed, the bill could require that any orcas in captivity in California would be retired to sea pens. Viewing by the public and study by scientists may still be allowed in this more natural environment. Find out more at the Dodo and the Malibu Times.

International Court orders a halt to Japanese whaling

March , 2014 – The International Court of Justice has ordered a temporary halt to Japan’s Antarctic whaling program. The ruling noted that the amount of science undertaken in the program is tiny relative to the commercial aspects and that Japan had not considered a smaller program or non-lethal methods to study whale populations. Only two peer-reviewed scientific papers relating to its program have been published from 2005 to the present, giving evidence that the program is not for scientific purposes as the Japanese government had claimed. Read More in the New York Times.

Seaworld loses appeal – trainers to stay out of tanks

April 12, 2014: In a closely watched ruling among those who criticize the captivity of marine mammals, SeaWorld’s appeal of safety citations issued by the OSHA (U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration) was denied by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The ruling mandates that Seaworld’s workers will need to stay out of the water with killer whales unless there are physical barriers to reduce the risk of injury or death.

Why these developments are so important?

Our curiosity about whales is valid and humane. It enables us to learn more about them and protect them. But our methods for doing so are rapidly evolving. Modern technology continues to broaden the amount of people who can experience or learn about these creatures with limited human interaction. From the hidden cameras that researchers use to better understand the everyday lives of wildlife to underwater listening devices that broadcast continually on the Internet, our opportunities for exposure without containment have never been so varied and accessible.

From the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California which encourages visitors to watch for sea mammals directly from the shore outside its doors or via its live webcams to whale watching boats and kayak expeditions that bring people into the whales natural environment (while respecting strict viewing guidelines that don’t interfere with the whale’s activities), there are many opportunities worldwide to gain an authentic experience with whales.

Like the 1.2M people that signed the petition to support US Senate Bill to stop captivity, we all have the opportunity to improve the treatment of whales for future generations (both theirs and ours).

Which action to help whales are you supporting?

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