Skip to content
All articles
  • All articles
  • About whales & dolphins
  • Create healthy seas
  • End captivity
  • Green Whale
  • Prevent deaths in nets
  • Scottish Dolphin Centre
  • Stop whaling
Dead sperm whale in The Wash, East Anglia, England. © CSIP-ZSL.

What have dead whales ever done for us?

When dead whales wash up on dry land they provide a vital food source for...
Risso's dolphin © Andy Knight

We’re getting to know Risso’s dolphins in Scotland so we can protect them

Citizen scientists in Scotland are helping us better understand Risso's dolphins by sending us their...
Pilot whales pooing © Christopher Swann

Talking crap and carcasses to protect our planet

We know we need to save the whale to save the world because they are...
Fin whales are targeted by Icelandic whalers

Speaking truth to power – my week giving whales a voice

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting is where governments come together to make decisions about whaling...

Why do whales and dolphins strand on beaches?

People often ask me 'why' whales and dolphins do one thing or another.  I'm a...
A spinner dolphin leaping © Andrew Sutton/Eco2

Head in a spin – my incredible spinner dolphin encounter

Sri Lanka is home to at least 30 species of whales and dolphins, from the...
Sperm whale (physeter macrocephalus) Gulf of California. The tail of a sperm whale.

To protect whales, we must stop ignoring the high seas

Almost two-thirds of the ocean, or 95% of the habitable space on Earth, are sloshing...
WDC team at UN Ocean conference

Give the ocean a chance – our message from the UN Ocean Conference

I'm looking out over the River Tejo in Lisbon, Portugal, reflecting on the astounding resilience...

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.