Thursday, 26 November 2015

World Whale Conference and Whale Heritage Site Summit

In October 2015 our little Morgan headed to the Azores with some of the Partners of the World Cetacean Alliance to attend the World Whale Conference and the very first Whale Heritage Site Summit. 

To start with they joined in the WCA Film Night, watching the film Breach which looks at the continued issue of whaling in Iceland. There was a chance to ask the films director and creator Jonny Zwick. 

The fantastic film Breach, bringing attention to the issue of whaling in Iceland 

Then into the first day where there were presentations, talks, workshops and discussions. First on the issue most closest to Morgan's heart, the issue of cetaceans in captivity. The aims; to develop a global communications network, to build a global database of resources and to develop an online help kit for anyone campaigning to stop cetacean captivity. 

Next the focus was on the issue of ghost gear and entanglement, something that we have noticed more and more in the news recently. Morgan particularly enjoyed the presentation on the Vaquita, one of the most endangered species of cetacean found in the Sea of Cortez. There was a chance to look at the benefits of being a partner of the WCA, something that Morgan feels passionate about as it is a chance to get involved and make a difference!

Day two and the focus was on those elusive beaked whales, a group we know so little about and are at risk in particular from noise. Particularly exciting is the intent to build a photo ID catalogue of beaked whales in the North Atlantic.  Then the focus shifted to responsible whale watching, looking at an accreditation scheme and in particular looking at standards and policies for dolphin and whale swimming. 

Getting close to the presentations. Photo Celine Van Weeldon

With the World Whale Conference over it was on to the very first Whale Heritage Site Summit. Whale Heritage Sites are the new initiative launched by the WCA. The scheme will look to promote responsible whale and dolphin watching in a destination, but will also promote the cultural importance of whales and dolphins. The site will deliver long-term protection for marine habitats and sustainable development for communities by inspiring people to value their whale heritage. The Azores is one of the very first candidates for Whale Heritage Site accreditation. The Summit looked to develop the scheme, and set out criteria and indicators that can be developed into a scheme. The Summit included presentations about current responsible whale watching frameworks around the world, other accreditation schemes, how the scheme can help with conservation through protecting important marine mammal areas and how whale festivals such as WhaleFest in the UK and Monterey, USA can play an key role in the cultural side. There were also workshops, discussions and a visit to some important cultural and historical locations in the island of Faial. 

While the third day focused on the Azores potentially being the first Whale Heritage Site, there were presentations throughout the summit about other locations being considered including North Vancouver Island in Canada and the Pacific Island Whale Trail which includes places like Tonga. 

For Morgan it was brilliant to be back in the Azores, and to be back among the passionate people of the World Cetacean Alliance, marveling at the work they are doing to protect whales and dolphins worldwide. 

Out and about with the WCA Partners 

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Whale Watching with Cape Ann Whale Watch

It has been a while! WhaleFest 2015 was over 3 months ago! Doesn't time fly!

For our little Morgan time has been flying the company of whales, those working to protect them and those who are loving watching them (in a responsible way of course!). Morgan was now back out in the USA with WCA Partner Patti Sullivan and Paul DiGangi, and as we moved into Spring and then Summer, what better to do then get out on a whale watch! (To be honest regardless of the season or weather, for Morgan the best thing to do is always be out on the open ocean with her family!).

So Morgan, Patti and Paul headed out with Cape Ann Whale Watch off Gloucester, Massachusetts in search of whales. 

Morgan and Paul with the wonderful crew and some huge baleen!

Onboard the Hurricane II Morgan met loads of excited passengers, and Cynde Bierman McInnis who not only runs the comprehensive educational programme that is integrated into all Cape Ann Whale Watch trips but also is the Chair of the Responsible Whale Watching Working Group of the WCA and is taking the lead on the new joint educational initiative called the Net Effect Campaign. Through this WCAs responsible whale watching partners aim to talk to passengers about the issues of bycatch and ghost gear which continues to trap, injure and kill all kinds of marine wildlife including whales and dolphins once it is lost or discarded. 

Morgan, Paul and the fab Cynde

It was quite a trip and a brilliant day, with kids and adults alike getting fantastic encounters with majestic humpback whales, the full educational experience of whale watching with Cape Ann Whale Watch as well as learning the story of one young Orca kept away from her family and her rightful place in the beautiful open ocean.

One of many encounters that day with a humpback whale!

Enjoying time with Leandra, Layla and Andrew 
Read more about the Responsible Whale Watching Working Groups's Net Effect education initiative at the WCA website.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

WhaleFest 2015 - Happy 1 Year Anniversary Follow Free Morgan!

It has been a year since our little Morgan started off on her adventures. In that time she has travelled all over, from the states of Hawaii and Connecticut in the US, to Portugal, Panama, Iceland, Baffin Island and the Azores to name a few. She has watched humpback whales, bowhead whales, narwhal, minke whales, fin whales, blue whales, Risso’s dolphins, pantropical spotted dolphins, harbour porpoise, common dolphins, Cuvier’s beaked whales and even some of her own kin, orca. She has petitioned against keeping cetaceans in captivity, learnt how to be a marine mammal observer, attended a vigil for Hector’s and Maui’s dolphin’s and even gone diving. 

Now a year on and she was back where it all started, in Brighton for WhaleFest 2015. This time at held the Brighton Centre with wonderful panoramic views of sea and beach, and the emotionally charged WCA Whale Graveyard. The installation set on Brighton beach, just in front of the Brighton Centre, comprised over 5,000 crosses each bearing the name of a whale or dolphin that has died in captivity, set in the shape of a mother and baby orca. After all the rush of setting up and getting ready with the other volunteers for WhaleFest 2015, our little Morgan took a moment with a setting sun to reflect on the meaning of this display and hope that it is not the future for her namesake Morgan held in Loro Parque, and for all the other orca currently held in captivity. For them our little Morgan hopes for a better solution of retirement and for some perhaps even release back to the wild. 

The WCA Whale Graveyard

Then it was time for the festival itself, bringing back many of the aspects Morgan enjoyed last year from Virtual Whale Watching, Science and Campaign talks from some of the most prominent researchers and campaigners in the whale and dolphin, experts and artefacts including the amazing narwhal tusk, a submarine dome experience and stalls from hundreds of charities and whale watching companies from around the world. Once again the amazing Main Stage included talks from inspirational people like Gordon Buchanan, Monty Halls, Ric O’Barry, Will Travers, Steve Backshall, Michela Strachan and John Hargrove. Surrounded on all sides by inflatable life sized whales and dolphins. Interspersed with their talks were passionate volunteers talking about a particular species of whale or dolphin. There was face painting, pottery painting, arts and crafts, a whole zone dedicated to sharks, yes its WhaleFest but all such creatures play an important role in our oceans ecosystem and all need protecting. Here you could wander up close to life sized sharks and even explore a cave. There were sea shanty’s being sung and people everywhere! The whole event was bigger and better than last year, with thousands of people coming through the doors and being inspired about whales, dolphins and our oceans. For those who could not attend the event there was the Live Lounge, streaming interviews with celebs, campaigners and researchers to a wider audience through the internet. 

Loving the Sea Shanties

Once more the whole event was run not for profit, with money raised going to the World Cetacean Alliance and its campaigns. As well as generous donations collected over the weekend there was an auction of amazing, once in a life time experiences kindly donated by WCA partners, including trips kayaking with orca in Canada and whale watching in Baja, California. On top of this were the amazing Whale Tails, one for every orca currently in captivity and painted by local artists with their wild soul. Signed by such people like Steve Backshall, John Hargrove, Will Travers and Jean Michel Cousteau each was then auctioned off with the money going to the Wild and Free campaign. 

The amazing Whale Tails

Once more our little Morgan was inspired by the passion of those around her, yes by the big names bringing and sharing their experiences and knowledge to a wide audience, but more so by the hundreds of volunteers who had given their time, energy and effort to make the whole event a reality. It is they who inspire our little Morgan the most. 

Photo Gallery by

Monday, 16 February 2015

The Telegraph Outdoor Show

It is exactly one month to go until WhaleFest 2015, the world’s largest festival for wild whales and dolphins. This year will also be the 1 year anniversary of the launch of Follow Free Morgan! 

Amongst all the planning for the main stage, the campaigns and science talks, the virtual whale watch, shark zone, experts and artefacts; the organising of exhibitors and celebrities, expert speakers and an amazing art installation that will get the world thinking on the campaign of Wild and Free. Amongst all this the WhaleFest team took part in the Telegraph Outdoor Show in London, promoting our wonderful festival and encouraging more people to get involved with the Wild and Free Campaign and taking #whalefies! 

Eye to Eye: Morgan's #whalefie with the WhaleFest Whale

The event ran over four days from Thursday 12th to Sunday 15th February and our little Morgan joined in the fun of the WhaleFest PopUp on the Thursday. 

The PopUp saw the very first public outing of WhaleFest’s very own huge inflatable Orca funded by wonderful donations through the Whale of a Time crowd funder campaign. 

There were banners and posters telling everyone about WhaleFest, the WCA and their work being done to protect wild whales and dolphins. There was also the brand new WhaleFest Virtual Whale Watch boat all ready to take people whale watching in Brighton!

The inflatable orca and new virtual whale watch boats! Whoop!

As the weekend progressed the PopUp saw Monty Halls and Steve Backshall adding their support and an almost continual procession of people taking their #whalefies! Why not checkout all the #whalefies taken for the #wildandfree campaign at the WhaleFest Facebook Page!

For our little Morgan it was an exciting day, and just a tiny taster of what WhaleFest 2015 is going to be all about! Here's hoping we see you all there!

Have you taken your #whalefie yet? Why not do so now!? Take a selfie with anything related to a whale or dolphin! The #whalefie should represent whales and dolphins that are wild and free! Send you #whalefie to and post to your social media! 

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Under the Sea

For our little Morgan, as a soft toy her interaction with the marine environment is mainly like ours, from the surface. Observing marine life as it breaks that barrier, for whales and dolphins this is essential. As mammals they breathe air like humans which means that they must surface in order to breathe. The time they can hold their breath, while much longer than humans, varies from 10 minutes or so for many dolphins to over an hour for the mighty sperm whale. But ultimately they all must come to the surface and breathe. This is where most of our interaction with whales and dolphins occurs. Some are lucky to swim with them in the wild, experiencing the wonder of interacting with them under the waves. Most encounters however occur at the surface, and this is where Morgan has been experiencing fantastic encounters with her kin. 

In September last year however, Andre Cid from AIMM took Morgan under the water for the very first time. In the warm, blue waters off Arrabida Portugal, Morgan went diving with Andre Cid as he undertook a survey of the seabed habitat. They were joined by renowned underwater photographer Athilla Bertoncini. He took some truly magical pictures of Morgan under the water.

Morgan diving with the scientific divers

The survey was part of a wider project to determine the biodiversity that exists around Portugal. Andre and Morgan surveyed a 50 m line counting all the fish they saw, then they visually determined the vegetation cover. Each line was also videoed and any unusual species of marine creature they saw they took pictures for future identification. Other divers recorded sponges, corals, micro algae, plankton. Over the course of the recent surveys the team has recorded 40 species that had previously not been described in this area of Portugal! 

Surveying the marine life

The whole marine ecosystem is interconnected. To protect whales and dolphins, we need to protect their habitats. Before we can protect marine creatures and their habitats we need to know what is there.  What a thrill for Morgan to be at the very forefront of marine discovery!

Simply enjoying the magic of being under water

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Life-sized delights

In Connecticut, USA there stands a 60 foot life-sized ferro-cement model of a male sperm whale. The only one of its kind anywhere in the world, built in 1975 and 1976 with 5000 hours of volunteer labour by WCA partner Cetacean Society International and friends. Conny sits in the grounds of the Children’s Museum, West Hartford, inspiring kids and adults alike as to just how big, magnificent and magical the sperm whale is. At the same time Conny was being built CSI led a successful campaign to have the sperm whale designated as the Connecticut State mammal. Conny represents all living whales, as well as the regions significant whaling period of centuries ago. Now Conny inspires people to seek whales to help and protect all whales.

Being up close to even a model whale or dolphin that is life-sized has the power to inspire. Imagine standing next to Conny, looking up at his massive head, huge fluke and wrinkly skin. It is not hard to be inspired. 

Morgan, CSIs Paul DiGangi and Conny the Sperm Whale

WhaleFest, the world’s biggest festival of whales and dolphins looks to do exactly this also. To inspire people to care, and to protect whales and dolphins. 

Before Christmas our little Morgan pledged her support to WhaleFest’s Whale of a Time Campaign, a crowd funding initiative to raise money for a life-sized inflatable Orca to have at WhaleFest but also to take on the road inspiring people all around the UK and perhaps even further! Morgan left that story at 21 days left and 50% of the funds left to collect. 

Now having stood next to the life-sized Conny, marvelled at the life-sized Orca and humpback whale Niall at WhaleFest 2014, our little Morgan is proud to announce that Whale of a Time reached its target! With WhaleFest 2015 fast approaching Morgan is super excited to have her picture taken next to the WhaleFest life-sized Orca that will be joining in the festivals celebrations!

Morgan and Niall the life-sized humpback whale at WhaleFest 2014

Thank you to everyone who donated and to the WhaleFest and Whale of a Time team for working so hard to make this happen! 

Hope to see you all at WhaleFest 2015!

Monday, 12 January 2015

Dolphin Watching in Portugal

What does someone who surveys marine mammals do on their day off? Go whale watching of course! It is more than a job or a hobby or an interest. Whale and dolphin watching gets into your blood, it is your passion. For our little Morgan spending time at sea on the water, watching her cousins swimming wild and free is the best feeling in the world. So when Andre Cid decided to do some dolphin watching around the Algarve in Portugal between work for WCA partner AIMM, it was only natural that he took Morgan with him.

Out on that wonderful blue ocean

First off they headed out from Alfubeira where AIMM has its research centre, on a small Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) in search of dolphins. Zooming over the azure blue sea Morgan and Andre scanned the waters for those signs that dolphins are around. A splash, a dark fin or back…. This time it was not meant to be. No dolphins or whales. But that is the way it is with wild whales and dolphins. That’s the point. They are wild. That is not to say there is nothing else to see. Just being out on the Ocean is bliss to Morgan, and this time the trip took them to see some of the spectacular geology of the region. Gently floating on the water, the RIB took them into one amazing cave so large it is aptly called Cathedral! 

Just a few short weeks later and Morgan and Andre Cid were back out on the water. This time with WCA partner Cape Cruiser, based in Sagres. Once again they headed out across the blue waters in search of whales and dolphins. This time their luck was in! Pods of common and then bottlenose dolphins skimmed through the waves nearby. A group of small harbour porpoise, one of the smaller species of cetacean, rolled at the surface, their breath coming in short puffs. Then there was a minke whale, bigger than dolphins but actually one of the smallest baleen whales. Finally when things felt like they could not get any better…. Orca! A small group, eight or nine and for these waters a rare sight! In five years of working at sea in this region, this is only Andre Cid’s third sighting of Orca! What a rare and special treat!

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year from Follow Free Morgan!