Whale Wise (North America)
The whale watching industry has incredible potential to promote marine conservation. By connecting the public with the natural world, whale watching can educate others and encourage protection of sea life. However, evidence exists that current practices may negatively impact whale populations.
Whale Wise aims to assess the impact of whale watching encounters on whale populations. Using a range of methods and technology, we will examine the behavioural and physiological responses of whales to whale watching vessels. With this work, we hope to improve the ways we watch and respect whales.
Our focus is on the whales of Skjalfandi Bay, Iceland: an important feeding ground for various whale species, and an area with a large whale watching presence, often having nearly 50 boat trips a day at the peak of summer. Specifically, we will study two species:
1) Blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus), the largest animal in the world and listed as Endangered by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).
2) Humpback whales (Megaptera noveangliae): the most abundant cetacean in Skjalfandi.
In the field, we use two principle methods:
1) Conducting behavioural observations of whales, in the presence and absence of whale watching vessels, to assess any alterations in the animals’ activity.
2) Blow sampling: using drones to collect samples of whale exhalations. From these samples, we will analyse various hormone levels to assess the physiological responses to whale watching vessels. Sampling will occur at different times of day, before and after whale watching encounters, to compare differences in hormone levels. This will be the first study of its kind in Iceland.
We are huge supporters of whale watching- after all, we ourselves love to watch whales! We realise its massive economic benefits to coastal communities, its role in public education, and its potential to promote marine conservation. The public should be able to encounter these incredible animals in their natural habitat, as it is certainly a better alternative to captivity. For many, it is even a life-changing experience. However, we also have a duty to protect the welfare of the whales we love to watch. We believe it is possible to provide high-quality encounters whilst minimising disturbance to whales and dolphins.
If you have a passion for whales and watching them in their natural habitat, please consider donating and keep up to date through our blog: WhaleWise.org . As a small organisation, any donation can make a massive difference to our work and the positive impact we can make for the whales.
Our funding goals:
$5,000 - allows us to conduct research for another field season
$10,000 - allows us to conduct research for another field season and purchase custom-built drones
$20,000 - allows us to conduct research for another field season, purchase custom-built drones and use our own research boat
Contributions of any size play a large role in the improvement of the relationship between whales and humans! Thank you!
If you would like to donate in British pounds, please visit www.gofundme.com/whalewise