Join me in the cold, dark, life-sustaining NE Pacific Ocean to discover the great beauty, mystery and fragility hidden there.

Posts tagged ‘Eco-action’

How Will We Look Back in Another 55 Years?

Yesterday, I had reason to stand beside the Ocean with tears in my eyes.

I again stood exactly where Moby Doll was harpooned and brought into captivity in 1964 at East Point, Saturna Island.


Unthinkable now, but back then, who we were and what we believed is that there were too many Orca.

We vilified them, shot at them, and thereby there was social license for the plan to have an artist harpoon an Orca and then make a sculpture of it for the Vancouver Aquarium. The artist / harpoonist, Sam Burich, sat at this very spot from May 22 to July 16, 1964. A young Orca was then harpooned and the artist could not bring himself to kill him. The whale was brought into Vancouver Harbour at the end of the harpoon and only lived for 87 days.

He was nicknamed “Moby Doll” because we did not even have enough knowledge to discern juvenile male and female Orca. He was to be “The whale that changed the world” helping us know how wrong we can be but how quickly we can change when knowledge replaces fear and . . . when our values change.

On that point, my reason for being on Saturna Island was another source of emotion. There was so much evidence of change.

In my role with our Marine Education & Research Society I was there to help launch the #ForTheWhales movement with Saturna Island Marine Research & Education Society.

The intent is that this hashtag be used to increase awareness of the multitude of actions we can undertake to reduce impacts to whales – as consumers, energy-users, voters, neighbours, educators and boaters. This is with emphasis on the plight of the endangered Southern Residents, Moby Doll’s lineage who now number only 73 whales.

It is essential to realize there are still many ways to kill a whale through disconnect; entitlement; absence of precaution; perceiving societal / environmental health in only election cycles of 4 years; associating using less as being about loss rather than gain (less disposables, fossil fuels and dangerous chemicals); and the overwhelm that comes from not realizing the common solutions to socio-environmental problems.

How will we look back in another 55 years? Will we reflect on how the whales again moved us forward with values that better serve our own futures as well? Or, will we acknowledge that we had a critical window in which we could act, and did not.

The whales – indicators of environmental health and barometers of human values.

Care more. Use less.

DO MORE . . .   #ForTheWhales.

Sources and additional information about Moby Doll:

CBC The Current, December 27, 2016, How Moby Doll changed the worldview of ‘monster’ orca (includes audio and video)

Colby, Jason M., and Paul Heitsch. 2019. Orca: how we came to know and love the ocean’s greatest predator.

Francis, Daniel, and Gil Hewlett. 2007. Operation Orca: Springer, Luna and the struggle to save West Coast killer whales. Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Pub.

Leiren-Young, Mark. 2016. Moby doll: the killer whale that changed the world. Greystone Books.

The Tyee, May 13, 2008, They Shoot Orcas, Don’t They?

The Walrus, August 5, 2016, Moby Doll – How a bungled hunt turned killer whales into star attractions—and launched the modern conservation movement

Werner, M. T. (2010). What the whale was : orca cultural histories in British Columbia since 1964 (T). University of British Columbia. Retrieved from

Go WILD This Christmas – Create Hope, Not Garbage

A39 aka “Blackney” from the A30 matriline of fish-eating “northern resident” killer whales. Photo: Hildering

Go WILD, really WILD this Christmas – but not in raging consumer gluttony; not in garbage-creating obscenity; not in a way that leaves you hollow; and not by extensively impacting both your and the earth’s resources.

I think few will disagree that ours is a society gone mad with consumerism. We are relentlessly and oh-so-cunningly pummeled with messaging that we will be happier, more loved, sexier and perceived to be more successful if we purchase this item, and this one, and . . . this one!

But, there are powerful rays of hope above the landfill. More and more of us recoil at the consumerism, realizing its true cost. There appears to be a powerful societal wave moving us back to simplicity, peace and quality of experience where it’s not about the having . . . it’s about the holding.

As part of this shift, if gifts are to be given, we strive for them to be meaningful; where value is not measured in dollars but in societal/ecological benefit.

Below, I share five WILD ideas for gifts that go deep, benefitting marine research and conservation in British Columbia.

Note that there are of course so many more good causes than those I list below. What has guided my selection is that I have a direct connection to (and resulting depth of knowledge about) the environmental non-governmental organizations listed below.

1.  OrcaLab
Click here to join the “OrcaLab 100” – one hundred people committing to a monthly donation (be it ever so small) so that the OrcaLab can count on a steady stream of support. You symbolically represent a “northern resident” A Clan whale and receive a personalized write-up of the whale with the whale’s photo; notification of when the whale is first sighted back in the area; and access to an exclusive FaceBook OL100 supporters’ page.
For more than 40 years, Dr. Paul Spong and Helena Symonds (recently joined by Leah Robinson) have served as the watch-keepers/guardians of the whales of the Blackfish Sound /Johnstone Strait area. From the remote Orca Lab, they acoustically monitor the area year-round, 24 hours a day. They record any whale calls, attempt to correlate whale vocals with behaviour and create public engagement and awareness by broadcasting these calls on-line. They also advocate so powerfully to end whaling and having killer whales in captivity. Their work has only become more intense over the last years since, in addition to recording killer whale calls, now humpbacks are vocalizing in the area! Click the image below for a sample of humpback song recorded by the OrcaLab on October 23, 2011.  Click here for a history of the OrcaLab. 

2.  The Wild Killer Whale Adoption Programme (KWAP)
Click here to symbolically adopt one of BC’s killer whales and support the wild killer whale research listed here. All 4 discrete populations of killer whales in British Columbia’s waters are in trouble and hence, there is an acute need for further research. Government funded research is, not surprisingly, very limited.
You can adopt a whale from the birth year of the recipient for an extra personal touch. The gift package includes:  A picture of the whale with its life story; a certificate that tells you’re wonderful; an annual research update; a CD with killer whale vocals and the commentary of leading acoustics researcher, Dr. John Ford and – a cloth bag that can be used over and over again, for further earth-friendly joy. 

3. The Marine Education and Research Society (MERS)
Click here to make a donation to MERS and you support the local humpback and minke whale research with which I am directly involved. Include the name and email address of the person you are honoring with the donation and they will be sent an email informing them of how you have helped MERS’ research and education efforts and how invalable this support is to us.

4. The Whale Interpretive Society (WIC)
Click here to adopt a transient killer whale bone so that T44’s skeleton can be put together  (articulated) for the purposes of education.

Fish Forever – The Wisdom of a Nine-Year-Old

Nature gave us sockeye salmon this year. A red-scaled, bounding life source, some 34 million fish strong.

This has led to human voices shouting out in all from gratitude to greed; from delight to denial.

Predictably, sadly, there have been far too many who have been at the “greedy denial” end of the spectrum. I will not tire you with that here though.

I want to fish out two voices of sanity from the ocean of opinions. One voice is that of reporter Stephen Hume from the Vancouver Sun. The other is nine-year-old Avery Walker who I am privileged to have as a member of my Northern Vancouver Island Young Naturalists’ Club.

Stephen Hume, award-winning author,  in The Vancouver Sun: “Columnists who apparently wouldn’t know the difference between a sockeye and a sculpin cluck and scold in a Toronto newspaper. One enthusiastically advances the argument that we should whack 30 million of the 34 million returning salmon . . . . . Instead of permitting a lust for instant gratification to derail a natural process for rebuilding small stocks, now is the time for restraint, for harvest restraint is a critical investment in future abundance. So enjoy your sockeye. Be grateful for this gift from nature. But don’t let the gong show of greed sway us from good stewardship.”

Avery Walker - Salmon Superstar. Photo by Larry Walker and Anna Marchand.

Avery Walker, 9-year-old Young Naturalist, with his prize-winning submission to the Wild Salmon Circle’s “Spawning Ideas” contest: “I fish only with barbless hooks, I’ve taken all the treble hooks from the all the buzzbombs I have and replaced them with single barbless hooks. I don’t jig the fish, I fish the ones who bite. Sometimes this is really hard to do, because not all of my friends fish like this, and so they sometimes take home more fish than I do. I abide by the regulations about which salmon I can keep and which ones I can’t. I never go over my limit. Or keep undersized fish. Most of the time, I catch and release. I love to fish, and I want to be able to do it forever.”

Thank you Avery. Thank you Stephen. Thank you all who make choices that may allow us to have  . . . fish forever.

For insights into the need for precaution in managing the harvesting and threats to the Fraser River sockeye, please click here for information from “Save Our Salmon”.