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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...

Turning the tide in St Vincent and the Grenadines

 

St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) is a beautiful island nation in the Eastern Caribbean.  Humpback whaling began on Bequia, its second largest island, in 1875 when William Wallace, a Scottish settler, returned to the island after working on an American whaling vessel. He established a whaling company and passed on techniques for hunting both humpback and sperm whales to his crew, later partnering with French settler, Joseph Ollivierre, who also established a whaling station on the island.

SVG joined the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 1981 and since then, has been awarded a “subsistence quota” for humpback whales, despite the fact that the nation fails to meet the criteria for so-called Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling (ASW).  In this context, a 50-foot female humpback whale was caught off Bequia last week.

Thankfully, the more positive news is that, since the early 1990s, commercial trips to view marine wildlife, have been operating and are steadily increasing in popularity. In recent years, a whale watch training programme has been developed with the help of international experts, in response to a request from two local organisations, the SVG National Trust and the SVG Preservation Fund.

Several species of whale and dolphin are found in the waters of SVG: some are present year-round, including spinner dolphin, pantropical spotted dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, short-finned pilot whale and orca (killer whale); whilst sperm whales and humpback whales are seasonal visitors.

Importantly, these trips have a broad focus and so passengers are encouraged to spot local birdlife as well as keeping a look-out for whales and dolphins.  For example, the ferry crossing from Kingstown (the capital) to Port Elizabeth offers a great chance to watch dolphins; whilst back ashore, visitors can experience the island’s rich history and visit local museums and the old whaling factory.

In January this year, Prime Minister Gonsalves commented: “A lot of our young folk are interested not so much in the actual traditional whaling, but in whale watching, which is a legitimate activity.” He made other encouraging noises in favour of whale watching, which indicate government support for futher developing whale watching in SVG, a move which will enormously benefit local communities as well as the whales.