UK public go wild for whales
The International Fund for Animal Welfare was delighted to take part in a brand new UK festival celebrating all things whale related recently.
The very first WhaleFest event took place in Hove, East Sussex, on the south coast of England over two days with the aim of getting the public enthused about responsible whale watching and whale protection.
A team from IFAW UK and a representative from IFAW’s non-invasive whale research vessel, Song of the Whale, manned a stand over the weekend and talked to the public about our work to end commercial whaling and to mitigate the many other threats to whales including man-made ocean noise, ship strikes, entanglement in fishing gear, pollution and climate change.
As it was the first event of its kind, we weren’t sure how popular a whale watching-themed event in England in winter might be, but as we set up on the Saturday morning we were pleasantly surprised to find a long queue of people of all ages waiting to get inside.
We were even more pleased with the very supportive response we received when talking about IFAW’s work on whales, which encompasses lobbying on commercial whaling within whaling countries and at the annual meetings of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and a number of on-the-ground projects to protect whales from threats around the world, from humpback entanglement in Zanzibar to the study of belugas threatened by climate change in Russia.
More than 250 people willingly posed for photos for our online photo petition Tails for Whales (visit www.tailsforwhales.org to upload your photo) to show their support for whale protection.
The event was a timely one for us, just a couple of days before Song of the Whale set sail from Ipswich on the east coast of England on its latest research trip, studying harbour porpoise distribution in the Dogger Bank area.
Lots of marine biology students expressed their interest in working as interns on the boat and will be keenly following its progress during the three-week field survey.
Song of the Whale also provides a great practical argument against the need for so-called scientific whaling, as it shows that valuable scientific data can be gathered without the need to kill or even disturb whales.
We talked to visitors about the reality of commercial whaling, which IFAW opposes because it is inherently cruel – there is simply no humane way to kill a whale and IFAW scientists have analysed footage of Japanese whaling which shows some harpooned whales struggling for up to half an hour before dying a painful death.
The world's third largest economic power will again spend taxpayer funds to send its aging whaling fleet into an internationally recognized whale sanctuary to continue a senseless annual slaughter under the guise of "science".
As the IFAW whale team continues its vital work to end commercial whaling and protect whales for future generations, it is heartening to hear how many Brits are behind us. We look forward to meeting more of you at next year’s WhaleFest.