When I was five or six my mum and dad took me to Windsor Safari Park. There with my face pressed against the wooden slats of a gate I saw a mysterious creature pass by in a murky blue beyond. This was my first ever sight of a bottlenose dolphin. I don’t remember the actual display, but as I was walking out, gripping my dad’s hand and circling around the sterile blue water and harsh stone of the pool, a dolphin popped up right next to me. It felt like there was no one else around, it felt like the dolphin was saying ‘hello’ just to me. From that moment, that dolphin started a passion in me, a passion for whales, dolphins and porpoises.
|A pod of Fraser’s dolphin|
I started to learn as much about them as possible, my six year old self even wrote a book about them. I learnt about the different types and read stories of people’s experiences. I was captivated and inspired. As I got older, I became more aware of the threats these amazing creatures face, including being kept in captivity.
My first encounter with wild dolphins was in the Moray Firth, when a pod of bottlenose dolphins came steaming along the coastline and I bounced up and down excitedly in the hire car. From Wales, to Mull, New Zealand to Africa, to Iceland and across the Bay of Biscay, I loved watching, learning and inspiring others.
|A passion that led me to guiding and inspiring others|
Thirty years ago we ‘saved the whales’ when following public outcry and ‘save the whale’ campaigns, the International Whaling Commission adopted a moratorium on commercial whaling… and yet in a way we failed. Japan, Iceland and Norway continue whaling under the guise of ‘scientific research’. Even in the last few weeks South Korea has announced plans to resume ‘scientific whaling’; claiming the research is needed for proper assessment of minke whale stocks.
Many whale populations continue to decline, or show little signs of recovery. For many dolphin and whale populations we know so little they are listed as Data Deficient on the IUCN Red List. Over 1000 whales and dolphins continue to die every day, facing threats from whaling, bycatch, pollution, habitat loss and direct takes to name a few.
And yet, research continues to show that these mammals are highly intelligent, social creatures with complex behaviours and vocal communications. Creatures that show a range of emotions and self awareness, that have developed tool use, that can learn new behaviours and teach them to their young, that have culture…
How can we have claim to have saved the whales, and yet in the last few years we have even lost a species? The Yangtze river dolphin, or Baji, has gone, many others such as the Vaquita, a porpoise found only in the Sea of Cortez, is on the brink.
So what do we do? How do we ensure that our children and our children’s children have the chance to see a blue whale, the largest animal to ever live on our planet, or to see a pod of thousands of dolphins making the sea boil, or even to see a harbour porpoise roll through the waves…
|The majestic blue whale|
We stand up once again for whales and dolphins…
The stage is set for a new global partnership willing to take action to protect whales and dolphins, and that stage is The World Whale Conference and WhaleFest 2012. Here Planet Whale Nation will be launched, a new global community that welcomes everybody to share their ideas for the benefit of whale and dolphins.
All of us, no matter where we live, what we do or where we come from can make a difference.