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 

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