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Preparations for beluga whale move to Iceland continue

Preparations for beluga whale move to Iceland continue

http://au.whales.org/2019/03/06/preparations-for-beluga-whale-move-to-iceland-continue/
Whale culture should play a part in their conservation says new international study

Whale culture should play a part in their conservation says new international study

An international group of researchers working on a wide range of species, including whales, argues...
Uk trade talks with New Zealand should raise concerns about endangered dolphins

Uk trade talks with New Zealand should raise concerns about endangered dolphins

WDC is leading a coalition of organisations urging the UK government to use its trade...
Multiple belugas moved in US marine parks

Multiple belugas moved in US marine parks

Over the last month, there has been a flurry of movement between marine parks in the U.S....
Iceland to kill over two thousand fin and minke whales

Iceland to kill over two thousand fin and minke whales

The Icelandic fisheries minister has announced a new whaling quota, which will allow Icelandic whalers...
How we are working with communities to build a whale sanctuary

How we are working with communities to build a whale sanctuary

The beluga whale sanctuary is all about belugas, right? Yes of course it is, but wherever we work...
Record numbers of dolphins dead on French beaches

Record numbers of dolphins dead on French beaches

According to reports from France, huge numbers of dolphins have been washing up dead on...
Dolphinaris Arizona will no longer hold dolphins

Dolphinaris Arizona will no longer hold dolphins

A week after closing, the signs were removed from Dolphinaris Arizona as the marine park undergoes an...

Blue whale blues

Every whale death is a tragedy, but a dead blue whale is a big loss in every sense of the word. A young blue whale – its beauty and future potential cruelly extinguished – is arguably the greatest loss of all.  I was really concerned, then, to hear a few days ago of another blue whale washed up on the beach at Midigama, on the south coast of Sri Lanka: the third in the area in as many months.  These palm-fringed beaches are a slice of heaven and it seems plain wrong to see this whale – at around 10-15 metres, small in blue whale terms – lying dead on the sand.

Reports suggest that the whale had a 5-metre-long gash running down its throat pleats and under its left flipper. Whales have been fatally struck by vessels in these waters on an all-too regular basis, as blue whales and other species have the misfortune to make their home within one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.  At the moment, there are many unknowns, but samples have been taken and hopefully, we may eventually learn why this young blue whale died.

Sadly, just a fortnight ago, another blue whale washed up dead at nearby Kathaluwa beach, and in early March, yet another blue whale was found on the beach at Dikwella, to the east of the well-known fishing village of Mirissa.  Just days before that March death, two blue whales had been observed in the area, both in poor condition; one looking emaciated and the other with injuries suggestive of orca attack.

Taken together, these deaths – and the earlier sightings of whales in poor condition – suggest that all is far from well with the local blue whale population. This is a matter of great concern of course, not only to conservationists but also to the local community, which in recent years has developed a whale watch industry around these gentle giants and the many other whale and dolphin species found in these waters.

Back in 2012, in response to concerns that this new industry was developing too quickly, WDC launched Project BLUEprint, in partnership with SriLankan Airlines and local eco-tourism companies. We started to engage with the whale watch operators, offering support and training in responsible whale watching and at the same time, encouraging fit-for-purpose regulations, with proper monitoring and enforcement provisions, as these elements go hand in hand. Last autumn, we staged a successful two-day training workshop in the region, which was attended by around 90 operators and stakeholders. 

There is still some way to go before all local operators have sufficient training and experience to allow them to offer truly responsible viewing practices across the board – and equally, whilst regulations are in place, they are not yet as robust as they should be. Nonetheless, things are moving in the right direction and several local operators currently offer an experience that is on a par with high-quality whale watching elsewhere in the world. And, crucially, there is growing awareness within this community that they cannot protect their livelihoods without first protecting the whales in their waters. Fostering this sense of guardianship over the blue whales and other marine life in the region is absolutely essential of course and thus is a large part of Project BLUEprint’s remit.

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