10 March 2017
Learning About Whales In The Eastern Caribbean
WDC has been working with school children on the remote islands of Saint
Vincent and the Grenadines in the Eastern Caribbean. More than 30 species
of whales and dolphins can be found here and children grow up hearing stories about
their parents (and grandparents) hunting them, including humpback whales, orcas and pilot whales and many dolphin species. So, when I shared with them that whales are
mammals and therefore are very similar to us in a lot of ways, you can see the
fascination on their faces. Each session ends with a question and answer
session, and I am completely convinced that our workshop lessons are having an
impact on how the children feel about whales and dolphins based on the clever
questions they ask. Do they sleep? How do they recognise their friends? How long do they live?
If one is killed, do the others cry?
WDCís vision is a world where every whale and dolphin is safe and free. People living here are very proud of their history and culture, as they should be. Whaling and fishing were the main sources of income and survival for struggling communities. Now, whales may hold the key to an economic future for these same communities, this time through whale watching.
We know that tourists worldwide have a desire to see whales swimming safe and free, and will spend their money doing so. We know that whales are worth more alive than dead, not only financially, but because of the significant role they play in the ocean ecosystem which makes their survival essential for ours. We know that orcas, dolphins and pilot whales spend their entire lives with their close-knit families, and all whales display evidence of feelings, not much differently than humans do. I also know, from my time in the Caribbean, that even the school teachers and other adults are nodding in agreement that maybe itís time to start reconsidering the role whales play in Saint Vincentís culture. These are just some of the reasons why we believe whale watching is a viable and responsible way to interact with whales and dolphins and to support coastal communities.
My hope is that the children we reach through our educational outreach work will appreciate the whales in their backyard, and create their own stories of whale watching that they can pass on to their children and grandchildren.