By Dan Knaub, the PR and Media Director for Cetacean Society International
Every individual in the United States is responsible for protecting whales and dolphins. Millions of people go whale watching on the East and West coasts of the United States. Their favorite species of whale is the humpback whale. More than any other, the humpback is most likely to approach your boat and display some pretty extraordinary behaviors from breaching, hitting the water with flippers and flukes (tails) or capturing schools of small fish in some very interesting, unique and well-planned strategies.
The US government is considering delisting the humpback whale from the endangered species list. This event alone will put humpback whales at an increased risk of being hit by a boat, caught in a net or harmed by underwater sound.
The humpback whales that spend nine months off the coast of Massachusetts each year are increasingly threatened by an ever growing number of whaling nations. Just a few years ago it was only one. Twenty years ago, only St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a small Caribbean nation killed humpback whales, now Greenland kills 8 to 10 annually. Both Iceland and Japan announced their intent to begin harvesting (killing) humpbacks.
Why should this matter to you? Killing a whale quickly is not easy or efficient. Many whales swim away wounded, never to be seen again. Some linger for 30 minutes or more and St. Vincent also kills very young calves to keep the distraught mothers an easy grieving target.
Killing whales for profit should be an assault on your emotions. Humpback whales are the most sociable of all the whale species. While they often approach a boat full of people, take a look at them and demonstrate some of the most incredible behaviors, they are also extremely curious about other things in their ocean home. I have watched fascinated as they played with or investigated other species of marine life, floating debris and even small islands of seaweed and pine pollen. Humpbacks are self-aware, they know that they exist and have some amazing personalities. They know we exist and seem to want to learn more about us by interacting with people along the railing of boats.
Two humpback whales are famous for approaching boats in the US, undoubtedly the most sighted and most loved whale in the world in Salt. This prolific grandmother with 12 calves and 10 Grandcalves has been sighted every year since 1975. Between periods of feeding, she takes time near the boats, especially in the years that she has a calf, and while at first timid and shy, in a few minutes staying close to their mothers, they seem to enjoy rolling around, diving under twisting and spinning with delight in an underwater ballet. I’m perplexed at how Salt or any of the mothers trust us this close to their nursing calves just 1500 miles from an area where no humpback whale is truly safe whether 40 years old or born just a few weeks before.
Colt was recently voted the friendliest whale in the world and it was a unanimous vote. No other whale takes such an interest in people.
Nearly every visit by this 31 year old male is filled with hilarious moments of Colt making sounds (noises emanating from his blowholes) seeing people along the railing and splashing them. If other whales come close to his boat, Colt will push them away so that he can always be closer to the people than his friends.
Salt and Colt reflect to a greater degree the interest in people by other lesser-known humpbacks. Sockeye, a survivor with a deformed jaw, Meteor owner of a scar shaped exactly like a harpoon and Thorn, who blows incredible and magical perfect bubble rings. When you know individual whales you want to protect them, you don’t need money to help, but CSI does. You can write a letter asking our President and Congressional members to protect whales from whalers. Any Congressman or Senator will react when they receive 40 or 50 letters from voters. One school or classroom can make a real difference with a letter writing campaign.
What else can you do? Donate to a good whale conservation group. In full disclosure, I am a Director of PR and Media for Cetacean Society International. CSI is an all-volunteer nonprofit group where 93% of all donations support our whale and dolphin saving programs and your support for CSI is incredibly important right now. Your donation during the month of September will be doubled by a gracious and anonymous donor.
CSI sends experts to meetings where decisions are made about the numbers and species of whales that can be killed. It might surprise you that thousands of large whales are killed annually as well as tens of thousands of dolphins as highlighted in the Academy Award winning documentary “The Cove”.
Killed not by accident, but on purpose and with great effort. This is where we really need to help and CSI’s an expert in this area. Most people fall in love with whales, the first time they meet them and to learn that they have names and individual personalities is a special treat. However, not everyone can get on a boat and go out in the ocean and meet these extraordinary individuals. But this reasoning led to the CSI Humpback Whale Adoption Program where your $30 donation allows you to meet with Salt or Colt in their ocean home.
Your adoption or sponsorship kit includes a DVD of your new adopted friend. The DVDs were specially produced to make you feel as if you are on the boat. They share the most exciting visits and sightings of Salt and Colt over a 16 year period of time. Every time I watch them, they still make me smile.
If you are considering adopting this year and can do so in September, your gift will effectively double our efforts to protect the gentle giants so many people love.
Visit www.csiwhalesalive.org to adopt Salt or Colt.
Visit www.whalevideo.com to meet 30 named humpback whales.
Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.