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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...
We need whale poo ? WDC NA

Whales are our climate allies – meet the scientists busy proving it

At Whale and Dolphin Conservation, we're working hard to bring whales and the ocean into...
Humpback whale underwater

Climate giants – how whales can help save the world

We know that whales, dolphins and porpoises are amazing beings with complex social and family...
Black Sea common dolphins © Elena Gladilina

The dolphin and porpoise casualties of the war in Ukraine

Rare, threatened subspecies of dolphins and porpoises live in the Black Sea along Ukraine's coast....
Minke whale © Ursula Tscherter - ORES

The whale trappers are back with their cruel experiment

Anyone walking past my window might have heard my groan of disbelief at the news...
Boto © Fernando Trujillo

Meet the legendary pink river dolphins

Botos don't look or live like other dolphins. Flamingo-pink all over with super-skinny snouts and...
Risso's dolphin entangled in fishing line and plastic bags - Andrew Sutton

The ocean is awash with plastic – can we ever clean it up?

You've seen pictures of plastic litter accumulating on beaches or marine wildlife swimming through floating...
Fin whale

Is this the beginning of the end for whaling off Iceland?

I'm feeling cautiously optimistic after Iceland's Fisheries Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir wrote that there is little...

On the sea with Soundwatch

There’s a lot of talk about the Southern Resident orcas at this year’s Superpod, and much of the focus is on their top threat: prey depletion.  While on the island, WDC is also examining the other threats to this critically endangered population, including vessel noise and harassment.  I spent a day out on the water yesterday with The Whale Museum’s Soundwatch program, which works to prevent vessel disturbance to marine wildlife and collects important data on the interactions between the Southern Residents and surrounding boats.

Snug Harbor

Many of the issues with harassment stem from a lack of knowledge about the boating regulations for these endangered whales – it is illegal to approach or be under motor within 200 yards or park in the path of the whales, among other guidelines.  A lot of recreational boaters don’t know that these laws exist, and when they see a group of orcas, they understandably get really excited and want to move in for a closer look.  What they don’t know, though, can hurt the whales – and Soundwatch is working on making sure every boater knows how to whale watch responsibly. 

Orcas rely on their vocalization and echolocation skills to navigate, communicate, and forage.  Underwater noise can impair these skills, and harassment by vessels – including kayaks! – can disrupt their natural behaviors and interrupt foraging.  It would be like someone coming up and putting a hand right between you and that bite of dinner you were about to take, while yelling in your ear!

The data Soundwatch collects helps to protect the Southern Residents and educates the public about the endangered status of these whales and the threats to their recovery.  Soundwatch delivers material to over 2,000 recreational boaters and kayakers each year; in addition to recording the number, activity, and type of boats around the orcas, and the corresponding behavior of the whales.  The group is staffed largely by volunteers, and they work hard out there! I was able to witness firsthand the chaos of keeping track of the whales, the boats coming and going, and the diligent recording of information – surveys every half hour for as long as there are whales and boats around. Soundwatch has a tough job, but their work in educating the public and protecting the Southern Residents is priceless, and I’m glad I got to be a Soundwatcher for a day!