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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...
Mykines Lighthouse, Faroe Islands

Understanding whale and dolphin hunts in the Faroe Islands – why change is not easy

Most people in my home country of the Faroe Islands would like to see an...

Dolphin scientists look like you and me – citizen science in action

Our amazing volunteers have looked out for dolphins from the shores of Scotland more than...
Atlantic white-sided dolphins

The Faroes dolphin slaughter that sparked an outcry now brings hope

Since the slaughter of at least 1,423 Atlantic white-sided dolphins at Skálafjørður in my home...
Fin whale

From managing commercial slaughter to saving the whale – the International Whaling Commission at 75

Governments come together under the auspices of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to make decisions...

Collision With A Gray Whale Eliminates Yacht From Sailing Race

My work day today started with an email directing me to an article about a sailboat colliding with a whale in the San Francisco Bay. Ironic, given that tomorrow I am boarding a plane en route to a sailing symposium to talk about just that – safe boating for sailors and whales.

Together with our partners from Audubon Society of Rhode Island and New Bedford Whaling Museum, WDC runs an outreach program called Sharing the Seas, which aims to empower sailors to utilize safe boating techniques to reduce disturbances and injury to whales, their crews, and their vessels.

I was relieved to read that in this instance the two crew members on board were not hurt, although the J/105 they were sailing sustained a fair amount of damage (including a dislodged rudder and partial steerage loss on the 35’ boat) which required them to be rescued by the local yacht club’s dockmaster and brought back to port. While they didn’t see any blood in the water from the whale, they couldn’t be certain that the whale was uninjured.

What stuck with me most about this incident is that the article states the sailors did not report the incident to the Coast Guard. There are many reasons why this is an important and pertinent action to take.  The Coast Guard would have responded to ensure the safety of the two sailors on board and secure the disabled boat. The Coast Guard could have contacted the local marine mammal response network to try to relocate the gray whale involved in the collision and assess the whale’s condition. When we have consistent reporting, it helps improve the accuracy of databases that log cases like these, which then feed into a number of different efforts to ensure both human and whale safety at sea.

I’m sure there are  any number of reasons why boaters, including these sailors, don’t call the Coast Guard to report marine mammal strikes. We are hoping to discover some of those reasons, and in turn, ease any concerns people may have about reporting. WDC is currently  applying for funding that will allow us to carry out a standardized survey of boaters, helping us to understand why they may or may not want to report incidents like this to the Coast Guard.

In the meantime, if you or someone you know is a boater, please send us a message and let us know your thoughts…is there anything that would prevent you from calling the Coast Guard in this scenario? Would you know that that’s what you’re supposed to do?