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Why protect whales and dolphins?

Whales and dolphins are remarkable. But why are they so important? Why do we need to end captivity, stop whaling, prevent their deaths in fishing nets, and protect areas of ocean? What is so special about whales and dolphins?
Whale eye

There are many reasons, but here are two that support all of our work at WDC:

    1. Whales and dolphins have the right to exist as nature intends, not as humans decide.

Like us, whales and dolphins are intelligent beings, capable of suffering. There is plenty of scientific evidence to show this.  Like us, they often live in close social groups, pass on wisdom to the next generation, use tools, and grieve for pod mates just like we might. We have the right to life and to freedom, so why shouldn't whales and dolphins have the same rights regardless of their usefulness to us?

    1. We need to save whales to save the planet.

Planet Earth needs healthy oceans to survive. And healthy oceans need whales. It is not enough to conserve vulnerable species or populations. We need to restore their ocean environment.  We need whale and dolphin populations to recover to levels that existed before industrial scale whaling and fishing devastated the oceans.

Whales and dolphins have rights

There are compelling reasons why whales and dolphins are special and why they are so deserving of our respect, and of our protection. Their inherent value; which WDC believes should be recognised in law.

There is good scientific evidence that many whales and dolphins are highly intelligent. Different species of dolphins, variously, recognise themselves in mirrors, help sick pod mates, socialise, live in complex societies, play for fun, grieve for their dead and pass cultural information between individuals.  Some individuals even have a very specific role to play within their communities – just like us.   And, like us, they should have certain rights recognised.

We know that some species possess brain cells known as spindle neurons, believed to be associated with empathy and emotional intelligence. People used to think that these cells were only found in the brains of humans and some other primates but now they have been discovered in whale and dolphin species leading to some theories that suggest their emotional intelligence may be on a level far greater than ours. Imagine if you didn’t just sympathise with your friend’s pain but you actually felt it – that’s what some scientists believe is the case with some whales and dolphins. Our understanding of these sentient individuals is in its infancy. The more we discover, the more we are inspired and humbled. The more we learn, the more our human-centric view of the world is challenged as we begin to realise our responsibilities towards those other intelligent beings with whom we share our planet.

We hope that one day we will be celebrating whale and dolphin rights being recognised in law. When it is, our job will be easier. whaling will not be allowed, no human will be able to claim ownership of a whale or dolphin, or cause them harm without repercussions.This might sound like a big step but only a few decades ago wildlife conservation was seen as revolutionary.

To help us get there WDC helped develop a ‘declaration’, which you can sign to show your support.

Whale eye

Save the whale, save the planet, save ourselves

The health and abundance of whales are integrally tied to the health of the planet, and the species we share it with. ‘Save the Whale’ is not just a slogan, but something we have to do for the sake of our own survival.

Humans have done enormous damage to the planet including decimating whale populations, yet few people, let alone governments, are aware that whales help fight the damage we cause. They play a vital role in the marine ecosystem. They even help combat climate change.

When whales die they sink to the seabed, where they become mini-ecosystems sustaining all manner of marine life.  But did you know that they also isolate large amounts of carbon. Researchers estimate that as a direct result of whale hunting, large whales now store approximately nine million tons less carbon than before large-scale whaling.

Whales also help maintain ocean health and fish stocks. Whales recycle and move nutrients to surface waters where they are available to tiny plant-like organisms called phytoplankton. Phytoplankton are the very base of the marine food web on which all fish populations depend. They are also responsible for the production of at least half of the world’s oxygen.

How whales support the marine ecosystem
How whales support the marine ecosystem