We had a chance to interview Pine Eisfeld-Pierantonio whose official title at Whale and Dolphin Conservation is Policy Officer and learned a lot about all the work the WDC is doing and some interesting facts about whales that not too many people know.
1. Please tell us a little bit about the work Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) does and the programs you run to combat the difficult situation whales are facing?
WDC, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, is the leading global charity dedicated to the conservation and protection of whales and dolphins. We defend these remarkable creatures against the many threats they face through campaigns, lobbying, advising governments, conservation projects, field research and rescue. Our vision is a world where every whale and dolphin is safe and free.
WDC has offices in the UK, US, Australia, Germany and South America and currently works on a range of campaign areas including:
Creating healthy seas for whales, including tackling plastic pollution
Ending whale hunting
Tackling the issue of entanglement in fishing nets and gear (bycatch), which kills an estimated 300,000 whales and dolphins every year
Ending the cruel practice of keeping whales and dolphins in captivity
This year we are excited to be celebrating 30 years working at the forefront of whale and dolphin conservation. Although there has been some fantastic progress made on issues like captivity over the last 30 years, new threats such as plastic pollution have emerged, which means that our work fighting to protect whales, dolphins and porpoises all over the world is still vitally important.
2. When was WDC founded and where do you do most of your work?
WDC was founded in 1987, we are celebrating our 30th anniversary all through this year. Our main office is in the UK, but to say that we do most of the work, would be unfair to my colleagues in Argentina, the USA, Germany and Australia.
3. What is your current role with the organization and what do you like most about your job?
I am a policy officer and lead WDC’s work on plastics. Within my policy officer role, I act as the interface between science and policy which means I use scientific data to hold the Government responsible when they don’t do their job well. Within my role as plastics lead, I research statistics to find out how much plastic is out there, what people throw out, what the recycling rates are like, and how many whales, dolphins and porpoises are impacted. I have to find the scientific publications to make sure this information is correct. I also research alternatives to plastics and look at the pros and cons of biodegradable plastics.
What I like most about my job is that it is very versatile. I get to go on fieldwork and see these amazing creatures, and collect and subsequently analyse my own data. I go to meetings with Government and other NGOs, I give talks and workshops on the issues I care about the most.
4. Can you please explain to our readers the daily threats whales face in their natural habitat?
Whales, dolphins and porpoises face many threats in their natural habitats. Depending on where they are, they might be subjected to whaling, bycatch, noise, chemical and plastic pollution, habitat degradation, overfishing, climate change and even disturbance through tourism.
5. What are some interesting facts that not many people know about whales?
Whales are incredibly social creatures with strong family bonds. Corky, the longest surviving orca in captivity who was captured in 1969 can still remember her family.
She visibly shook and vocalised sadly when a tape recording of her family's calls were played to her in her tank. She still 'speaks' the same dialect as her family.
The heart of a blue whale is about the size of a VW Beetle car and weighs up to 450kg. The aorta, a major blood vessel for the heart, is big enough for a human toddler to crawl through.
A Cuvier's beaked whale has been recorded to dive to a depth of 3km for over 2 hours.
The male narwhal has two teeth. The left one pierces the whale’s lip and grows to an incredible 2-3 metres. In Europe, these tusks were once sold as the horns of the mythical unicorn.
Beluga whales are known as the ‘canaries of the sea’ because of the range of chirping sounds they can make.
Despite their size, the fin whale, the second largest whale, is known as the ‘greyhound of the sea’ and can reach speeds of up to 32km/h.
Discoveries of two stone harpoon points from the late 19th century in the skull of a bowhead whale killed by Inuits in 1993 prove that the bowhead whale can live to be over 200 years of age – one of the longest-lived mammals yet known to science.
6. Is there anything our readers can do as the general public to combat what's going on and to help prevent future threats to these beautiful creatutes?
Plastic pollution is a growing threat to whales and dolphins, and everyone now has to do their bit to refuse, reduce, reuse, repair and recycle. You have to be more conscious about what you buy, and what choices you make. Refuse plastic bags, straws and take out cups. Make it a habit to carry a reusable bag, reusable coffee cup and a stainless steel or bamboo straw with you. Get a stainless steel lunchbox or a sandwich bag that you can reuse and wash out. Try to buy in bulk, so with things like snacks you can decant some into a bag or box when you go out. Try to join a litter pick in your area. As up to 95% of litter in the oceans comes from towns and cities, picking up litter while on your way to work or walking your dog will make a difference.
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As we got closer to the ocean floor, we began to approach a reef; this reef was nothing short of epic. The colours were bright and everything appeared to be healthy with marine life flourishing... that was until the current changed. Within seconds, this heaving reef became surrounded with plastic and rubbish.