Happy World Whale Day — Saving the Whales:  Progress, Threats, and New Hope

Photo: Cabo Adventures

By Patrick Ramage, Director – Marine Conservation, International Fund for Animal Welfare

This World Whale Day, as whale-huggers and marine conservationists from Maui to Monterey, Monaco to Mombasa measure recent progress, there is much to celebrate. As we assess prospects for actually “saving the whales” in the 21st century, there is also much cause for concern.

The progress is leviathan. After decades of international pressure and dwindling domestic support, the Government of Japan ended its high seas whaling around Antarctica and in the North Pacific and shut down the long-running sham of “scientific” whaling.  Iceland’s controversial commercial whale hunts are also dead in the water, a shift driven by domestic stakeholders including elected leaders and the ecotourism industry.

Meanwhile, responsible whale watching continues to expand in both countries, delivering tangible benefits to Japanese and Icelandic communities from Okinawa to Akureyri.  As a friend of mine says, animals and people both do better when whales are seen and not hurt.

The historic threat of whaling has receded, but others have begun to surface — right in North America’s backyard. Species including the North Atlantic right whale – of which just 400 remain – now face more threats than ever before. Entanglements in fishing gear, collisions with high-speed vessels, underwater noise pollution, marine plastics, and climate change all threaten their survival.

Yet there is hope: Ten new right whale calves have been sighted so far this year.  Accelerated action, innovation, and a solutions-oriented approach among key stakeholders will give them a fighting chance. Let’s get to work.

Up Next

Experts Believe Spike in Shark Attack Deaths May be Caused by Climate Change

Experts Believe Spike in Shark Attack Deaths May be Caused by Climate Change

by Amy Lupica, ODP Contributing Writer  Sharks have killed seven people in Australia in 2020, the most since 1934, and scientists believe climate change might be responsible. According to the Taronga Conservation Society Australia, for the past 50 years, the average number of yearly shark attack fatalities was one. Despite the total number of shark […]

Continue Reading 610 words
Citizen Scientists Pitch In On Research For Bird Die-Off In the Southwest

Citizen Scientists Pitch In On Research For Bird Die-Off In the Southwest

Over the last few months, thousands of migratory birds have dropped dead, inexplicably falling out of the sky across the southern United States. Scientists speculate that smoke from wildfires has poisoned birds and forced them to migrate through new territory with fewer food sources.

Why this Matters:  It’s difficult for scientists to research long-term data trends since they often work in small teams, in small geographic areas.

Continue Reading 492 words
Animals Need a Plan for Natural Disasters Too

Animals Need a Plan for Natural Disasters Too

Human activity has nearly doubled the rate of natural disasters in the last quarter-century. And as the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) explained in a new report out this week: While many natural disasters cause great financial hardship and can tragically result in loss of human life, animals are often overlooked in the chaos. […]

Continue Reading 1000 words

Want the planet in your inbox?

Subscribe to the email that top lawmakers, renowned scientists, and thousands of concerned citizens turn to each morning for the latest environmental news and analysis.