SC67A | Bled, Slovenia

Hues of blues and vibrant greens reflect off the calm, clear waters of Lake Bled, a fairytale of a place located in the upper region of northwestern Slovenia. It is this quaint community of Bled, nestled in the foothills of the Julian Alps and famous for its cream cake, that set the stage for nearly 200 scientists from over 40 countries to present their recommendations for whale management policies at the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee meeting in May.

The Scientific Committee (SC) is the body that advises the International Whaling Commission (IWC) on whale stock management and conservation measures. Pacific Whale Foundation (PWF) Founder, Greg Kaufman is an Invited Participant to the SC and serves on several subcommittees including: Whalewatch, Southern Hemisphere whales, Small Cetaceans, Photo-ID and Non-deliberate Human Induced Mortality on Cetaceans. He also serves as the international whalewatch representative to the IWC’s Conservation Committee. Part of PWF’s presence at the IWC is to help ensure scientifically based management of the world’s whale populations.

PWF has been instrumental in providing a comprehensive assessment of the impacts and value of whalewatching. Greg is a team member for the IWC’s Modeling and Assessment of the Whalewatch Industry (MAWI) that will undertake a workshop in the next six months to define a long-term assessment on global whalewatch operations. Since 2010, Greg has also been involved in drafting an international Strategic Plan for Whalewatching. This plan is undergoing further review with an expected international roll-out in the next few years.

A dozen papers authored, co-authored, or using PWF data were presented to the SC this year. One of the most highly regarded papers was focused on photo-identification of Bryde’s whales in Latin America. This work, long thought to be near impossible to conduct, was co-led by PWF Ecuador researcher, Cristina Castro who collected and compiled the data. Barbara Galletti also presented research funded by PWF on Chilean blue whales, focusing on a small population found off the coast of Chiloe Island.

This year was historic in that the IWC allowed the creation of a working group comprised of members of the Scientific Committee and Conservation Committee, ensuring for the first time that conservation measures will rely upon scientific advice and not purely political concerns.

Despite the positive achievements at this year’s SC, members were left somber with the recent loss of Dr. Carole Carlson, a pioneering whale scientist, naturalist, conservationist and PWF Board Member. Dr. Carlson served on the Whalewatch Sub-Committee of the IWC since 1994, and organized and conducted multiple international whalewatching workshops.

One calm afternoon, traditional boats called pletna took members of both committees to an islet in the lake’s center where the Church of the Assumption of Maria is located. The evening commemorated Dr. Carlson’s commitment to the development of whalewatching guidelines throughout the world, and her dedication to education and scientific programs on behalf of whales and their natural habitats.

Many of her close colleagues said a few words, including Greg who made a very moving speech about his dear friend and the vision they shared. “Dr. Carlson was a visionary, a guardian of the sea, and an engaging advocate for public education and whale conservation. Her contributions are a living legacy to the protection of whales and their ocean home.” It was remarkable how Carole affected so many people. As the sun set over the still ice-capped mountains, a sense of hope embraced the gathering knowing that efforts will continue to be made in her memory to conserve and protect the world’s whales and our ocean environment.

Watch the Memorial for Carole Carlson, 14th May 2017, Bled, Slovenia.

 

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Plastic Free Life

Five practical tips to reduce plastic, starting today.

  1. Re-use glass jars. There are a ton of prepared foods you can purchase in glass jars; think pasta sauce, peanut butter, salsa, pickles and so on. Instead of buying plastic containers, re-use your jars for leftovers, packed lunches or keep them for storing your dry goods. Which brings us to the next tip…
  2. Buy in bulk. Many stores provide items such as grains, pasta, legumes, nuts and cereals for you to buy unpackaged. Simply bring your jars and measure out what you need. You’ll save money as well as the planet. Remember to check with customer service before you begin, as each store has a particular method for measuring weights. Hint: cotton bags are another great option when buying unpackaged items, and often have their weight printed on the tag (making it easy to deduct at the checkout).
  3. Say no to plastic produce bags. Many of us already bring reusable bags for our groceries, but go that little step further and use them when buying your fruit and vegetables too. Global estimates report that 2 million plastic bags are used every minute. That translates into an unsustainable amount of waste being produced each day! To learn more about the impact of plastic production on our environment, check out our previous blog The Last Straw.
  4. Stop unnecessary packaging. You’d be surprised at the amount of plastic that goes into producing and packaging store bought items; even worse for mail order. In 2012, containers and packaging accounted for 75.2 million tons of solid waste generated in the US alone. Try picking up clothes and other items at secondhand stores and yard sales instead. If you really must order something online, choose a company that promote sustainable packaging. Are your favorite company’s not on the list? Let them know how important the issue is to you,  companies like Dell and Stonyfield Farm are already improving their wasteful ways based on customer feedback!
  5. Use an eco-friendly water bottle. I’m sure you’ve heard this one before and if you’re using one today, awesome! If not, it’s time to make that change. Bottled water produces 1.5 million tons of plastic waste around the world per year, and requires 47 million gallons of oil to produce. It’s overpriced and not necessarily any cleaner than the water you get out of your tap. Don’t be fooled, grab a reusable water bottle today.

Some of these tips you may have heard before but it’s time to start implementing them today. If it seems like too much, just choose one and build up your environmental stewardship with time. You’ll be making a major change in our world and setting a green example for others in your community.

Sources

Earth Policy Plastic Bag Facts

Environmental Protection Agency Waste Management 

Food & Water Watch

The Last Straw

Fact: 500 million plastic straws are used and thrown away every day in the U.S. alone. Shocking, right? That’s why, as of July 2016, PacWhale Eco-Adventures no longer serves plastic drinking straws on our vessels.

What’s the big deal about having a straw in my drink?

  1. Increased air pollution. Plastic production needs electricity, one of the leading sources of air pollution in the U.S., according to a recent Environmental Protection Agency report. Oil and gas are also needed which means drilling, a harmful process known for destroying habitats. Then, gas is needed to transport the plastic materials from producers to straw makers, electricity is used to power straw-making machines, and even more gas is needed to deliver straws to customers. Besides banning straws, PacWhale Eco-Adventures has implemented a number of other green features, including using high efficiency engines on our vessels, locally sourced catering for our cruises, and LED lighting for our offices.
  2. Increased ocean pollution. Plastic drinking straws are one of the top 10 items picked up at beach cleanups worldwide. And it’s not just straws; studies estimate that 10-20 million tons of plastic ends up in the ocean each year. Once there, plastic can harm marine life through ingestion and/or entanglement. All species of sea turtles and approximately one third of all seabird species have suffered from harmful effects caused by eating plastic. If swallowed, plastics can cause internal blockages leading to starvation and drowning. Plastics also contain chemicals which can stop animals from being able to reproduce. Entanglement in debris also threatens marine life. Ongoing efforts to recover the endangered Hawaiian monk seal have been hindered by entanglement deaths. If you want to help clean up plastic debris from our coastlines, you can sign up for Pacific Whale Foundation’s Volunteering on Vacation program. If you’re not on Maui, don’t let that stop you, grab a reusable bag and head down to your local beach to collect some rubbish today.
  3. Unsustainable growth of landfills. Every piece of plastic ever made, regardless of whether it has been recycled, still exists. Up to 43% of the worlds plastic ends up in landfills, a situation that is only going to get worse.

So take a stand with us and say no to plastic straws, and single use plastics in general. You’ll be helping to create a more sustainable earth with cleaner air, land, and oceans for generations to come.

 

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Celebrate Endangered Species Day

Endangered Species Day is a celebration of the nation’s wildlife and wild places and is an opportunity for people of all ages to learn about the importance of protecting endangered species. Started in 2006 by the United States Congress, Endangered Species Day occurs on the 3rd Friday of May to inspire people to take action in their everyday lives to help protect endangered species.

At Pacific Whale Foundation we research two endangered species: humpback whales and false killer whales.

As with many endangered species, both humpback whales and false killer whales are endangered due to human activities. The North Pacific population of humpback whales was hunted until only a few hundred individuals remained. Although their population has recovered immensely—recent estimates suggest approximately 20,000 humpbacks in the North Pacific—they and other large whale species are still at risk of vessel collisions and entanglement in fishing gear. Our current research on humpback whales aims to reduce the risk of these collisions by determining which factors contribute to detectability of the whales.

The major threat for false killer whales is entanglement in longline fishing gear. False killer whales prey on economically important pelagic fish such as mahi and tuna. Unfortunately, this results in frequent interactions with fishing gear that lead to entanglement injuries and bycatch events. Research on false killer whales at Pacific Whale Foundation focuses on abundance, distribution and social structure, allowing us to better manage and conserve this species.

For Endangered Species Day 2016, try incorporating these actions into your daily routine:

Make purchasing choices to protect endangered species:

Opt for biodegradable packaging instead of plastics and other synthetic materials that contribute to the growing problem of persistent marine debris. Use the Seafood Watch app from Monterey Bay Aquarium to choose fish that are caught in ways that protect endangered species from threats such as entanglement and bycatch.

Visit a national wildlife refuge, park, or sanctuary:

One of the best ways to conserve endangered species is to conserve the places that they call home. National wildlife refuges, parks, and sanctuaries are often designated because they provide crucial habitat for endangered species. Whether it’s watching humpback whales within the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary or trying to catch a glimpse of a manatee in Everglades National Park, visiting and supporting these protected areas goes a long way toward the conservation of these species.

Support experiences that respect wildlife and their habitats:

For your summer vacation, choose activities that respect wildlife and natural areas. Look for certified ecotourism companies with a focus on conservation and responsible management of endangered species.  For example, Pacific Whale Foundation is a certified sustainable tour operator with science, advocacy, and conservation at the core of its mission.

Adopt an Endangered Species:

Several organizations offer the opportunity to adopt different endangered species. Adoptions are a great way to support conservation efforts while getting to know the life history of individual animals. At Pacific Whale Foundation, you can adopt your very own humpback whale or false killer whale to help our researchers learn more about these species. We offer multiple levels of adoption packages, but all include an adoption certificate, sightings history, and sightings map of your whale.

Top 10 Ways To Celebrate Earth Day

In honor of Earth Day, we wanted to share 10 ways to engage with Mother Nature. You probably already recycle, so here are ten alternative ways to help the planet:

10. Participate in a citizen science project to help marine life.

  • Whale & Dolphin Tracker is a mobile web-application to report sightings of whales and dolphins so scientists can learn more about their patterns. You can log sightings in real-time and view them on a map or review profiles later. Visit log.pacificwhale.org to register with your smartphone.
  • Match My Whale is a web-based app to help researchers photo identify humpback whales by their flukes. Learn more and join today at www.matchmywhale.org

9. Visiting Maui? You can Volunteer on Vacation through Pacific Whale Foundation. Help clean up beach debris, remove invasive weeds, or work on other environmental projects on the island to “give back” while also creating meaningful and lasting memories of your time on Maui.

8. Help conserve Hawaii’s coral reefs. Eyes of the Reef offers free public trainings on how to report changes in the coral reef conditions in Hawaii. This helps resource managers detect the early onset of coral bleaching, disease, crown-of-thorn seastars, and outbreaks of invasive species.

7. Eat only sustainable seafood, both at home and while dining out. There are now many apps, like Seafood Watch, that will tell you what is safe to consume.

6. Get the most out of your binge-watching with our environmental documentary top picks:

  • “The 11th Hour” is Leonardo DiCaprio’s 2007 film featuring interviews with various politicians and scientists, including Mikhail Gorbachev and Stephen Hawking. It presents an interesting thesis: that human society possesses the technology to reduce our environmental impact by more than 90%.
  • “The Cove” won an Oscar for Best Documentary in 2010 as well as the Audience Award at Sundance. Not many films have caused as much public outcry as this expose on the fate of 23,000 of dolphins every year in Japan.
  • “An Inconvenient Truth” lit the fire of climate change awareness around the world. Originating from Al Gore’s speaking campaign after his unsuccessful 2000 presidential bid, the film won two Academy Awards in 2006.
  • “Catching the Sun” captures the global race to lead the clean energy future. Premieres on Netflix April 22.

5. Do a bit of research and buy only from companies with sustainable practices. PWF Eco-Adventures prides itself on being eco-friendly and offers numerous “green features” as detailed on our website.

4. Reduce your carbon footprint by carpooling. Also, many employers, such as Pacific Whale Foundation, offer incentives for employees who ride the bus to work or who purchase ultra-high-efficiency vehicles. Contact your employer about your options.

3. Go paperless when possible. Sign up for online or mobile banking. Read the newspaper online. Use note-taking apps on your phone. Think twice about printing that email at work.

2. Cut down on plastic waste. Our marine debris surveys find that plastic is the most common source of garbage in Hawaii’s oceans. Plastics are also commonly found in the stomachs of whales, dolphins and turtles. Choose reusable food and beverage containers, purchase items with less packing, and bring your own shopping bags.

1. Watch the United Nations Paris Agreement on Climate Change signing ceremony on April 22. Find out more about Sustainable Development Goals and the need to limit global temperature rise. All sessions will be livestreamed on http://webtv.un.org

Leave us a message in the comments and let us know how you are choosing to spend your Earth Day. 

Promising partnership in Guatemala

Whalewatching continues to grow globally with new markets emerging. Guatemala is the latest country seeking to develop whale watch operations off its Pacific coast focusing on the annual migration of humpback whales that migrate through their waters December through June. The humpbacks are thought to be en route to/from their breeding and calving grounds off Costa Rica, and likely spend their summer months feeding near central California northward to BC, Canada.

Greg Kaufman, founder of Pacific Whale Foundation recently traveled to the small coastal community of Montericco, Guatemala — best known for its 20km- long nature reserve of coast and coastal mangrove wetlands — to speak with tour operators about whalewatching and learn first-hand their challenges and whale observations.

The department of tourism, INGUAT, reached out to Kaufman for advice on this new developing industry. They stressed the importance of wanting to take a scientific approach to cultivate sustainable tourism in the area. Kaufman shared his thoughts on regulation and responsible practices.

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