The Amazing Whale(Fest) experience

The Author at Whalefest.Have you ever smelled the breath of a whale?

I did, and it smells really fishy. During a whale watching boat trip, I felt like a true detective, smelling whale before seeing it and following the stinking trail…

We actually ended up never seeing a whale on that particular boat trip, but I was blissfully happy - I had smelled a whale.

Have you ever seen a whale?

I have, once, in Iceland and it’s another once-in-a-lifetime experience….For hours we peered at the horizon trying to spot any splash of water. And there was - a fin whale in Icelandic waters. A majestic creature, worth protecting, no doubt on my mind.

Have you ever seen 15,000 whale fans gathered together in one location? No??? I did, last weekend, and it was an honour.

IFAW was invited to give two presentations at WhaleFest in Brighton, the biggest event of its kind, a festival attracting whale fans and experts from all over the world, looking to share their knowledge and experience with each other to make the world a better place for whales.

And the encounters were an inspiration; from people enthusiastically speaking about the research they do (Anna Cucknell from Marine Conservation Research International explaining their IFAW-supported harbour porpoise research in the river Thames), to fascinating shows by TV presenters (Michaela Strachan for example) and the friendly whale watching guide from Elding (an Icelandic whale watching company) who came rushing over to personally give me a signed copy of her book ‘The wonders of whale watching’.

I also walked past some of the other stands, and listened to a man from a UK conservation NGO sitting on his knees, explaining and demonstrating everything you can find in the North Sea. Mermaid handbags?!

The kids were captivated, like I was. Afterwards, I spoke with him about how fabulous it is to see the sparkle of joy when speaking to kids about oceans and animals, and how important it is to remember our own sparkle when campaigning for the protection of wildlife. 

I met so many parents with children who came over to our stand and wanted to make a difference.

A mum explained to me that she went with her son to a restaurant in Norway while there on holiday, and they discovered whale meat on the menu.

The little boy started crying in the restaurant.

Mum didn’t hesitate to take the IFAW pledge never to eat whale meat when visiting Iceland, and to discuss in a respectful manner with restaurant owners why we don’t agree with whale meat on the menu.

And last but not least - I had the opportunity to give a ‘sneak preview’ of a newly-developed app called Whappy - The Whale Friendly App.

After my visit to Iceland I realised it had been a challenge to make whale friendly choices, to find whale friendly restaurants and locally sourced whale friendly souvenirs related to whales (I am on an eternal quest for wildlife-related gifts for my children).

I went in and out of several restaurants before finding one that didn’t serve whale meat. We’re still busy with the final development stage of the app, but when it’s done and ready,

Whappy will do just that - help you make whale friendly choices and show your support for whales! Stay tuned, because we’ll launch the final Android and Apple versions of Whappy at the end of May.


Learn more about IFAW efforts to protect the world's whales on our campaign page.

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Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation