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Humpback whale playing with kelp

Why do humpback whales wear seaweed wigs?

Alison Wood Ali is WDC's education projects coordinator. She is the editor of Splash! and KIDZONE,...
Japanese whaling ship

WDC in Japan – Part 5: The meaning of whaling

Katrin Matthes Katrin is WDC's communications and campaigns officer for policy & communication in Germany...
Risso's dolphins off the Isle of Lewis, Scotland

Unravelling the mysteries of Risso’s dolphins – WDC in action

Nicola Hodgins Nicola is WDC's cetacean science coordinator. She leads our long-term Risso's dolphin research...
Save the whale save the world on a tv in a meeting room.

Saving whales in boardrooms and on boats

Abbie Cheesman Abbie is WDC's head of strategic partnerships. She works with leading businesses to...
Outcomes of COP28

Outcomes for whales and dolphins from COP28

Ed Goodall Ed is WDC's head of intergovernmental engagement. He meets with world leaders to...
Taiji's cove with boats rounding up dolphins to be slaughtered or sold to aquraiums

WDC in Japan – Part 4: A journey to Taiji’s killing cove

Katrin Matthes Katrin is WDC's communications and campaigns officer for policy & communication in Germany...
Blue whale at surface

Creating a safe haven for whales and dolphins in the Southern Ocean

Emma Eastcott Emma is WDC's head of safe seas. She helps ensure whales and dolphins...
We're at COP28 to Save the Whale, Save the World.

We’re at COP28 to save the whale, save the world

Ed Goodall Ed is WDC's head of intergovernmental engagement. He meets with world leaders to...

Right Whales: A Love Story- Shackleton and Legato

By Ashley Schaffert

 
Whales have been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. Growing up in Buffalo, you wonder how a small child would be so obsessed with these giants, without ever seeing them or living near them. That is the beauty of these animals; they captivate people all over the world.
 
After moving to Boston in 2011, I obtained a job on a whale watch boat as a photographer. It was the perfect job for me. I remember my first shift; a cold and rainy April day, about 30 miles off the coast of Boston. It was the first time I had ever seen a whale in the wild. I was so excited that I could barely hold the camera. From there on out, every single day would be equally as exciting. Seeing these whales NEVER got old. As I learned more about our ‘Massachusetts’ whales, I soon discovered a species I was not previously aware of growing up; the North Atlantic Right Whale.
 
Although I love all whales, Right Whales have become a favorite of mine. As you may know, Right Whales are protected by strict state and federal regulations that state you must remain at least 500 yards away from them or more. Therefore, whale watch boats are unable to ‘watch’ them. I had learned so much about watching our humpback whales, that I was determined to learn more about the species I couldn’t see. While my love and curiosity for Right Whales grew, a once in a lifetime happening at work really sealed the deal for me. About 20 minutes into a trip, just inside Boston’s outer harbor, I felt our boat come to an abrupt halt. I ran to the wheelhouse to find out what was happening. There, outside the port-side window, were two Right Whales calmly circling and feeding around the boat. We shut the boat down completely, and sat dead in the water waiting for these two giants to move far enough away from us before continuing on our way. This is a sight few get to see, and a day that I will cherish forever. Because of that day, I have branded those two Right Whales, named Shackleton and Legato, onto my right arm.
 
As exciting as it was to see Right Whales in the wild, it also made me very concerned to see them so close to busy Boston. The Right Whale population depleted due to whaling many years ago, but now face more modern challenges. Right Whales are known as the ‘Urban Whale’ because of how close to the mainland they inhabit. This makes them extremely prone to ship strikes from the main channels. And just like other species of whale, entanglement is also another leading threat.

Knowing that there are only around 500 North Atlantic Right Whales left in our ocean is just not acceptable to me.

Since we cannot expect a whale to not follow it’s natural instincts, we as humans need to adapt to their environment. The ocean is their home, not ours. We need to continue to follow speed regulations, move shipping channels out of migratory zones, and encourage the use of ‘whale-safe’ fishing gear more. Everyone can have a helping hand in this, even if you do not live near the ocean or whales. This is a national, and worldwide effort. I have worked with Whale and Dolphin Conservation to help promote the protection of Right Whales through my artwork and photography, and will continue to advocate in any way I possibly can. I encourage those reading this to do the same. Remember, even the little things add up, and it all starts with a voice.
 
Ashley Schaffert is a Photographer & Blogger.  You can see more of her right whale artwork and other creative efforts at www.ashleyschaffert.com

WDC is grateful to our guest bloggers and value their contributions to whale conservation. The views and opinions expressed by our guest bloggers are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of, and should not be attributed to, WDC.