Interview with Whale & Dolphin Conservation

For over thirty years, Whale and Dolphin Conservation has helped to protect the world's most endangered whale and dolphin species. From the North Atlantic Right Whale to the Risso's dolphin, WDC has led research to help better protect these and other species from extinction. 

Communications manager, Julia Pix, shares her views on WDC's vital work and what we can do to better protect the beautiful and fascinating whales and dolphins we share the planet with.

Hi Julia! How and why was WDC started?

In 1987, WDC (or, as we were then, the Whale Conservation Society) was originally a mechanism to channel the publishing ambitions of our founder, Kieran Mulvaney. Kieran, then a 16-year-old schoolboy and a prolific writer, wanted to produce articles on the growing threats to whales and dolphins and to share his desire to protect these remarkable creatures. 

His ambitions resulted in the production of a regular newsletter, each issue specialising on a threat to whales and dolphins complemented with a round-up of whale and dolphin related news. These publications proved very popular and soon people were asking to ‘join’. Soon after this period the organisation changed its name to WDCS, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, and began recruiting members as well as voluntary help.

By 1989, we’d expanded our activities and carried out our first investigation of the killing of pilot whales in the Faroes, a group of islands between Scotland and Iceland. The publicity we gained helped boost recruitment of more supporters and we quickly began to develop a supporter base. Some volunteers became permanent staff and, at this point, Kieran left to join Greenpeace to lead their Antarctic anti-whaling campaign.


Throughout the 1990s, we grew both our supporter-base and the breadth of issues we worked on, becoming the leading global charity dedicated to the protection of whales and dolphins.  

In 2012, WDCS became WDC, Whale and Dolphin Conservation and we are committed to creating a world where every whale and dolphin is safe and free.

http://www.wiseoceans.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/whales-and-dolphins.jpg 
Credit: Ana Docoing, www.pinterest.com
  
What is your mission?

Our mission is to amaze people with the wonder of whales and dolphins and inspire global action to protect them. Our vision is a world where every whale and dolphin is safe and free. 

Plastic pollution has become one of the greatest challenges of our species. How are whales and dolphins coping? How are their lives being affected? 

Plastic is a threat to whales and dolphins and we’re only just beginning to understand it. More than 56% of all whale and dolphin species have been recorded eating plastic they have mistaken for prey, like jelly fish - if you picture a plastic bag hanging upside down in the water, it’s easy to see why. 

In March this year, an adult Cuvier’s beaked whale died of gastric shock in the Philippines because he had 40kg of plastic bags in his stomach. Just 10 days later, a pregnant sperm whale washed up on a beach in Sardinia with 22kg of plastic bags, containers, and tubing in her stomach. 

In April, an emaciated baby rough-toothed dolphin with two plastic bags and a shredded balloon in her stomach had to be euthanised in Florida and in May, an adult rough-toothed dolphin died in the Philippines with 0.2 kg of plastic bags and wrappers in his stomach. 

In Taiji, There is Never a Cruelty-Free Day | Dolphin Project 
Credit: DolphinProject.com

Why is it important for the public to see the effects of plastic pollution?

We need to see the harm we are doing. 160,000 plastic bags are used every second and it’s all too easy for them to end up in the sea where they can seriously injure or even kill whales and dolphins. Only when we see the terrible impact we are having on our fellow creatures, will we do something about it. 

As much as 95% of the plastic in the ocean comes from our towns and cities, not from beaches or ships. It’s up to every one of us to take a look at our own lives and make simple changes that could save lives.

Giant "Dead Whale" is Haunting Reminder of Massive Plastic ... 
Credit: sustainableskippereen.com
  
Can you talk to me about the Maui and Vaquita species which are on the brink of extinction?

There are fewer than 60 Māui dolphins left on Earth. Our fishing nets have pushed them to the brink of extinction, but it’s not too late to save them if we can persuade the New Zealand government to remove the destructive fishing nets form the places where the dolphins live. You can find out more at whales.org/savenzdolphins.


The situation is even more dire for the vaquita. They are the smallest porpoises in the world and it’s fishing for another endangered species, the totoaba, that is killing them. If you are a vaquita, your life is perilous. Although you probably don’t know it, every day you run the risk of stumbling into a fishing net, becoming entangled and suffocating when you can’t get to the surface to breathe.

Fishing nets have almost wiped vaquitas out. 

In 1997 there were around 600 vaquitas. Now there are fewer than 30. 90% of the population was lost between 2011 and 2016 alone. Although the Mexican government has now banned the static nets that were killing them, illegal fishing is still rife in the vaquitas’ home and discarded nets are a massive problem for these little porpoises.

Nearly-extinct porpoises may disappear in just 3 years ... 
Credit: Greenpeace
What can we do as individuals to help? 

You can join WDC’s campaign to save New Zealand dolphins (the umbrella term for Māui and Hector’s dolphins) at whales.org/savenzdolphins

What is it about plastic that makes it so harmful to whales and dolphins?

We are still learning about the effects of microplastics but when whales and dolphins swallow large items of plastic such as bags they can cause horrible problems as they can prevent the whale or dolphin from feeding, either because they create the illusion of being full, or because the plastic blocks their passages.
  
If you could ask members of the public what the most essential action to take for whales and dolphins is, what would it be?

Spread the word. Don’t visit places that hold whales or dolphins captive, don’t go to swim-with-the-dolphins experiences, stop using plastic bags, follow us on social (@whales.org) to keep up to date with how you can help.

Our Final Chance to Keep Maui's and Hector's Dolphins From ... 
Credit: mission-blue.org
Thank you so much, Julia!

Julia's views are her own and do not necessarily represent the views of WDC as a whole. 

You can learn more about WDC and their inspiring work and how to get involved below

 


 

 

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