16 November 2018

A rare and mysterious visitor in Walvis Bay

Original article produced in the Namibian Dolphin Project blog

Click on the header for original article…

That illusive tail fluke

A rare and mysterious visitor in Walvis Bay

by: John Paterson, Albatross Task Force and Walvis Bay Strandings Network

Gray whales, Eschrichtius robustus, live in the high Arctic and northern Pacific Oceans coming as far south as Baja California and Mexico on the west coast of America and the Korean Peninsula to breed in summer. It used to occur in the North Atlantic Ocean, but was hunted to extinction in the 1700’s. It does not venture south of the equator. Or so we thought.
Last Saturday, 04 May 2013, tour boats doing dolphin cruises to Pelican Point saw a strange whale. Several more sightings during the following week seemed to indicate the unlikely fact that a gray whale was visiting Walvis Bay! On Sunday 12 May a member of the Walvis Bay strandings network confirmed the reports that there was a gray whale about. This is the first known record of this species in the Southern Hemisphere. The question is now “what is the origin of this whale?”
In May 2010 a gray whale was seen off Israel in the Mediterranean sea and the same whale was seen 22 days later in Spanish waters, also in the Med. This sighting raised much speculation on the origin of the whale and the reasons for its appearance. It was suggested that the whale originated from the eastern Pacific population and was able to navigate around the northern Canada due to the reduction in size of the Arctic ice cap caused by global warming. This climatic trend would potentially allow these whales to re-colonise their historic range in the north Atlantic. The authors of that report stressed that it was difficult to draw conclusions from a single event and were only proposing likely hypotheses. Three years later a gray whale makes its mysterious appearance in Walvis Bay. Comparing photographs of the Walvis Bay animal with the Mediterranean animal (courtesy of Aviad Scheinin –  http://www.hamaarag.org.il ), it seems unlikely that this is the same individual. Is it another individual that has traversed the North West Passage, or perhaps travelled around the southern tip of South America and across the Atlantic? Unfortunately, we’ll never know the route it followed to get here but keen eyes on the water may tell us where it goes next, so please send your reports to the WBSN if you see this animal.
Gray whales grow up to 14 m in length and undertake the longest known migration of any mammal completing a round trip of over 30,000 km between their summer feeding grounds in the high Arctic and winter breeding area off the coast of Mexico returning to the high Arctic again. The whale seen off Israel had completed the longest known stray by any mammal. Though they are baleen whales gray whales are unique in that they feed off the bottom of the sea floor by sucking up mud, usually through the right side of their mouths, and filter out the bottom mud dwelling amphipods on which they feed. This results in the baleen being shorter in one side of their mouths.
This sighting highlights the chances of seeing amazing animals in Namibia and also how important our marine environment is to sea life. Well done to the marine tour operators for locating this whale and operating in a responsible manner and not scaring the whale off. The Walvis Bay Strandings Network would like to thank the tour operators for passing on all sightings of this whale and particularly Mola Mola Tours for making space on their vessel so that we could confirm the identification and get photographs.

UK politicians united in call on Japan to end commercial whaling

First published by Tom Quinn of  The International Fund for Animal Welfare in association with the launch of their new report “The economics of Japanese whaling”…


MPs and Peers from across the political spectrum in Britain have called upon Japan to end its cruel and unnecessary whaling programme. More than 30 Parliamentarians attended the launch of our new report, ‘The Economics of Japanese Whaling’ in the House of Commons, all united in their opposition to this outdated, costly and unsustainable practice.

At our event, the International Fund for Animal Welfare Japan representative Naoko Funahashi led attendees through an engaging presentation outlining the stark reality that Japanese whaling only continues to be viable due to a sizeable Japanese government subsidy, including funds donated for tsunami relief following the devastating earthquake in 2011. She highlighted national polls demonstrating that the majority of Japanese people are indifferent to whaling and that the vast majority oppose the use of their taxes to prop up this dying industry.

Naoko also provoked much amusement as she revealed clear statistics demonstrating the lack of market for whale meat in Japan. Chicken, pork, beef and even horsemeat are more popular than whale for Japanese consumers. For a nation gripped by the news that horsemeat has been retailing as beef in many processed food products this provided light relief from the grim picture Naoko painted of a pointless industry that continues to hunt these sentient and majestic creatures for no discernable benefit.

Jointly hosted by Liberal Democrat Adrian Sanders MP and Conservative Justin Tomlinson MP, our event saw Labour Shadow Minister Tom Harris MP confirm his party’s unequivocal opposition to whaling. Tom has joined IFAW on our Song of the Whalescientific research vessel, watching minke whales off the coast of Iceland, and so he kindly spoke in glowing terms of the scientific rigour on which we base all of our campaign work.

He was also quick to praise the commitment of his opposite number, Environment Minister Richard Benyon, to ending commercial whaling. IFAW works closely with the Minister on this issue, but unfortunately due to personal reasons he had to pull out of speaking at our event. Nevertheless he confirmed the Government’s opposition to whaling in a letter to IFAW, stating that “there is absolutely no justification for this whaling and the UK will continue to oppose it”.

All the MPs who attended had their photo taken endorsing our report, and a great many were successful in promoting their support on this issue in their local media. The message from our event was clear – no matter what political differences they may have, politicians from all parties in the UK are united in their opposition to commercial whaling.


National Whale and Dolphin Watch – Sea Watch Foundation

Sea Watch Foundation

National Whale and Dolphin Watch

27th July – 4th August 2013

 National Whale and Dolphin Watch, Britain’s largest cetacean watch is fast approaching and we’re hoping to make it bigger than ever – please help us publicise the event by posting it on your events pages and by printing off copies of the attached poster and putting them up in your local region.

More information at www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk or sightings@seawatchfoundation.org.uk

How to get involved

NWDW – how to get involved


NWDW 2013_poster


Naval Exercises Kill Cetaceans…It’s official


Click here for full article

On June 9, 2008, at least 60 dolphins stranded along the coast of Cornwall, England, in what was by far the largest common dolphin mortality ever seen in British waters. For hours, rescuers tried to lead them back to sea — often unsuccessfully, as some of the animals were panicked and others just milled about in tight circles, resistant to saving. The forensic investigation that followed involved 24 experts

(c) Live Science

Nic Slocum of Whale Watch West Cork and Whales Worldwide appointed to Chair of Planet Whale steering committee of the sustainable whale watching partnership

Dr Nic Slocum, Managing Director of the Ireland based whale watch operator Whale Watch West Cork has been appointed to the chairmanship of the steering committee of the Planet Whale responsible whale watching partnership as of May 2013.

This role will entail pulling together a team of experts from the responsible whale watching partnership who will look at such diverse issues as codes of conduct at the species level for different activities such as swim with programmes, education within the whale watching industry and working with the IWC standing committee  for whale watching in the launch of their new five year plan for whale watching and the implementation of their proposed online whale watching guide.



International Whaling Commission (IWC) invites leading Ireland based whale watch operator and pioneer of sustainable whale watching to attend whale watch operators workshop in Brisbane, Australia…

Dr Nic Slocum, Managing Director of Whale Watch West Cork and chairman of the steering committee of the Planet Whale responsible Whale Watching Partnership, has been invited to attend the IWC Whale Watch Operator’s Workshop on 24th-26th May in Brisbane, Australia.

The IWC is drawing on operator expertise from around the globe during this two day workshop to assist in the implementation of it’s five year plan for sustainable whale watching. This will cover issues such as the use of whale watching boats to gather meaningful scientific data; systems for monitoring adverse impact of whale watching on cetacean populations; how to share expertise between whale watching nations, building responsibility for sustainable whale watching within the industry and the creation and development of an adaptive management framework.

Ryan Wulff, NOAA, Chair of the IWC Working Group on Whale Watching said “…we’re looking forward to your input and making real progress with implementation of the five-year plan and development of the online whale watch handbook…”

The IWC has been considering the issue of sustainable whale watching since 1975 and adopted its first resolution on global whale watching in 1993. In 1998 a standing whale watching sub-committee was set up under the existing scientific committee and has since addressed a range of matters concerning the sector. Much of its work has focussed on better identifying, assessing and understanding the impact of whale watching on whale communities both large and small.

“…I am delighted to attend this important international workshop and contribute some of the momentum we have achieved over the past nine years with Whale Watch West Cork through the development of species specific codes of conduct. With whale watching becoming an increasingly important and unique tourism attraction off the south coast of Ireland, it is imperative to draw on the expertise of others around the globe. This will ensure we develop a workable framework for best practice down to the species level that may be applied as a benchmark for those developing whale watching operations for the first time…” Dr Slocum said.

About Whale Watch West Cork

Whale Watch West Cork is dedicated to providing our customers with a safe, comfortable and educational whale and dolphin watching experience. We seek to impart detailed knowledge on the marine mammals and other wildlife we encounter and on the wider issues of marine conservation through informed commentary with special emphasis on the current threats facing these unique animals and their fragile environment.


About Planet Whale

Planet Whale is the global community that will change the way we view whales and dolphins forever. By harnessing the passion and ideas of individuals, we will achieve more to protect and defend our oceans than ever before.


About the IWC

The International Whaling Commission is an Inter-Governmental Organisation tasked with the conservation of whales and the management of whaling. It is set up under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling signed in 1946. The Commission has a current membership of 89 Governments from countries around the World.