Why I Care About Whales
My first time seeing a humpback whale in the water was actually during a shark dive on the north shore of Hawaii. It swam under the boat and passed by for only a few seconds before disappearing off into the blue. I will never forget how impressed I was by witnessing such a large animal drift by so delicately. Since that encounter I have been lucky to experience diving with pilot whales, bottlenose dolphins, false killer whales, spinner dolphins, spotted dolphins, and more. I've also had some amazing moments with the Southern Pacific humpback whales in French Polynesia.
There is nothing like making eye contact with a cetacean. The level of intelligence looking back at you is undeniable.
I grew up in Orlando only a few minutes from Sea World and so much of why I wanted to become a marine biologist was because of the experiences I had at the park. After freediving with dolphins and whales in their natural environment I can only imagine how miserable their lives must be in captivity. I want to see an ocean full of these magnificent creatures swimming wild and free.
"Some of the greatest minds on earth live in the seas."
-Anthony Douglas williams
Why You Should Care About Whales
Have you ever thought about whale poop? If not, maybe you should be.
Whales play an important role in nutrient cycling in the ocean. After they feed, often close to the sea floor depending on the species, they return to the surface and release nutrients normally found in the deep ocean closer to the top of the water column. Phytoplankton feed on these nutrients and in return help to produce Oxygen for the planet and absorb Carbon dioxide emissions.
Whales also help the ocean after death. Their fallen carcasses help provide a food source for a variety of wildlife in the deep sea.
HELP PROTECT OUR WHALE AND DOLPHIN POPULATIONS:
1) Don’t buy a ticket.
While my opinions on captivity are nuanced, I don’t believe cetaceans should be held in zoo/aquaria. The demand for wild caught dolphins and whales may be slowing in the US but it is still in extremely high demand around the world. The magic of experiencing these animals wild and free will always outweigh a captive experience. With advances in technology, there are 100% ways that cetaceans can be learned about and experienced without the need for a captive environment. Check out Cyan Planet’s VR dolphin experience here! Have you heard of the lifelike robotic dolphin?
2) Experience dolphins responsibly.
When in the US make sure you are following the guidelines set by the Marine Mammal Protection Act on the proper ways to engage with wild animals. Swimming with dolphins/whales in the wild is a wonderful and incredible experience when done right! Read about my best/worst dolphin experience here and how to remain respectful in the water. If you see someone harassing wildlife, try to educate the individual and/or report them to the proper authority.
3) Know proper stranding protocol.
Attempting to rescue a stranded or entangled animal can be extremely dangerous if you don’t have the proper training or knowledge to do so. It can be especially dangerous when dealing with large species, like dolphins and whales. If you see an animal in distress call for help! Check out your local rescue contacts or hail the US Coast Guard.
photo credits: @joshmunoz, @taylorrwalstonphoto