VIDEO: a tale of two whale ships

Meet the inspiring members of Song of the Whale in the video “The Night Whale”


The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is focused on two whale-related vessels this week. One, bound for Tokyo, is carrying “whale meat.” The other, berthed in London, is readying itself to carry on its mission of “meeting whales.”  

First, the one that meets whales.

For more than a decade, IFAW’s state-of-the-art research vessel Song of the Whale has conducted marine research, education and outreach activities around the world, encouraging effective action to protect whales and finding practical solutions to conservation challenges. 

For the past five years, our state-of-the-art, 70-foot sailing vessel has been managed and operated by Marine Conservation Research (MCR), a UK-based entity founded by longtime Song of the Whale team members Richard McLanaghan and Anna Moscrop.

This week, we are pleased to announce an IFAW grant fully transferring ownership of the vessel to MCR. We are delighted with this new arrangement, which will allow Song of the Whale to continue for years to come the critically important work for which IFAW built her, but under a business model better poised for the future.  

Now, the other.

In what may be the swan song for a failed business model, another sort of vessel took to the waves a week ago. That’s when the good ship Alma, a 320-foot reefer retrofitted with refrigeration capacity, slipped out of Reykjavik harbor in Iceland, steaming south at 15 knots. Her cargo? Approximately 2,000 tons of frozen endangered fin whale meat. 

The Alma is the latest vehicle engaged by Iceland’s lone whaling crusader Kristjan Loftsson, an eccentric fisheries magnate who takes a “planes, trains and automobiles” approach to shipping whale meat around the planet, whatever the costs to himself and his beautiful country may be. Forty days and forty nights from now, the Alma may put in to Tokyo ready to disgorge cardboard boxes pre-labeled for a Japanese consumer market that increasingly turns its nose up at whale meat.  

If this smells fishy to you, you’re not alone. Icelanders don’t even eat fin whale. But Mr. Loftsson was in a mad rush to get his frozen whale meat by any means necessary because the U.S. government is about to impose diplomatic measures on Iceland for his irresponsible activities. Meanwhile, many around the world watching this farce unfold would much rather come to Iceland to watch whales rather than watch Mr. Loftsson harpoon his own country’s political and economic interests.

So let’s instead celebrate the launch of Song of the Whale from London, as she sets a course for conservation and seeks elusive harbor porpoises in the Thames River estuary. As she does so, she continues the cutting edge acoustic and visual surveys and studies conducted by her team in more than 25 countries on a range of threatened species including North Atlantic right whales, sperm whales, blue whales, basking sharks and monk seals.

MCR is currently developing conservation and education projects on critically endangered bowhead whales in the Arctic and marine protected areas for threatened humpback whales that breed in the Cape Verde Islands. The future of whales and marine conservation depends on this kind of world class research, and it depends on you. 


For more information about Marine Conservation Research, visit their website.

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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