Brighton’s Whalefest, a growing celebration of all things whale-related

Some of the visitors to Whalefest in Brighton.International Fund for Animal Welfare staff and volunteers spent the weekend taking part in the second annual Whalefest event in Brighton.

It might seem a little strange to some to have a whale festival in a location not known for whales…Last year, we were really pleased and possibly a little bit surprised to find so many people turning out to spend their weekend finding out about whales – around 3,000 of them at the inaugural event.

This year, at a bigger venue and with lots more talks and activities on offer, thousands more attended.

IFAW joined hundreds of different organisations, including many other campaigning groups and charities, as well as whale watch operators, to celebrate whales.

It was a great opportunity for us to meet members of the public and ask for their support to help us end the cruel and unnecessary practice of commercial whaling, currently carried out by Japan, Norway and Iceland.

We also talked about the many other threats that our planet’s whales sadly face, including ship strikes, man-made ocean noise, entanglement in fishing gear, pollution and climate change.

Whalefest also provided an opportunity to talk about the work carried out by our unique, non-harmful whale research vessel, Song of the Whale.

The boat travels around the world, helping us highlight some of the threats to whales and also gathering valuable scientific data about whale behaviour and populations. Importantly, it also provides a solid argument against so-called ‘scientific’ whaling as the work of Song of the Whale shows categorically that you do NOT need to kill or even harm whales in order to study them.

Many visitors to Whalefest told us they are hooked on whales and whale watching having already enjoyed the amazing experience of seeing whales in the wild and lots wanted to find out about other destinations where they could again see these majestic creatures.

The event provided a platform for us to talk about our work in Iceland, where we work closely with local whale watch operators and support responsible whale watching as a humane alternative to whaling.

In the last two years, we have also turned our attention to tourists visiting Iceland.

With surveys revealing shocking figures for the number of tourists visiting Iceland who try whale meat (around 40%), we launched our ‘Meet Us Don’t Eat Us’ campaign in the country.

This involves having volunteers chat to tourists in Reykjavik and encourage them to enjoy whale watching but to avoid eating whale meat as this contributes directly to the number of minke whales being killed in Iceland.

When we inform them that very few Icelanders regularly eat whale meat (only about 5%) and that whaling is not a centuries old tradition in the country (commercial whaling only began after the Second World War), most are happy to sign a pledge card saying they will avoid whale meat and asking the Icelandic government to end whaling and support its whale watching industry instead.

It was great to see many friends of IFAW at Whalefest, including TV celebrity and naturalist Bill Oddie, who recently visited Iceland with IFAW to spend time on our boat and to see the Meet Us Don’t Eat Us campaign in action.

We were very grateful to him for promoting the campaign during his talks at the event.

We also enjoyed meeting lots of IFAW supporters who were attending the event.

Without your ongoing support, we could not carry out our vital work to protect whales and other animals for future generations.

We’re already looking forward to Whalefest 2013 and hope to see you there.


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Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation