Wednesday 8th June sees us celebrating World Oceans Day, an international day to recognise and raise awareness of the importance the ocean has on our everyday lives. Each year the United Nations strive to highlight the impact our actions have and our duty to use the ocean’s resources sustainably, while celebrating its beauty, wealth and promise.
Through our Little Clothes Big Change charity initiative, we’ve partnered with WDC, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation, to support their efforts in protecting marine wildlife. WDC is the leading global charity dedicated to the conservation and protection of whales and dolphins.
They work hard to achieve 4 goals: to end captivity, stop commercial whaling, prevent deaths in fishing nets and ultimately create healthier seas for marine wildlife. Our planet needs a healthy ocean to survive and a healthy ocean needs whales and dolphins.
Did you know, up to 23 million tonnes of plastic enters the ocean every year, weighing 10 times more than all the blue whales alive?
Why are Whales and Dolphins important?
We hosted an Instagram LIVE with Whale and Dolphin Conservation’s Charlie Phillips, chatting about the threats whales and dolphins are facing and what we can do to help. Check it out below.
These amazing creatures act as giant ‘ecosystem engineers’. They do this by redistributing nutrients across the seas which are essential to the marine eco-system and the production of phytoplankton which is reported to produce over half of the earth’s oxygen. WDC term this process as the “Whale Pump” which you can see below.
Our planet needs a healthy ocean and a healthy ocean needs whales and dolphins. But to ensure we still have whales and dolphins in our oceans for years to come, we have to do better at protecting the species and restore their ocean environment. By doing this it would allow the whale and dolphin populations to recover to levels that existed before industrial-scale whaling and over-fishing devastated our seas.
With the help from volunteer and supporters, WCD are working to integrate the climate-defending role of the amazing marine mammals into global policies on biodiversity, conservation, climate change, fisheries and marine protected areas. This will increase the measures put in place for the conservation of whales and dolphins across the world.
WDC work to achieve their goals by running campaigns both nationally and globally to help drive change, and undertake fieldwork and research with their team of experts who have been recognised as some of the best in the world. They advise governments and decision makers and participate in education and outreach programmes. WDC work closely with partners from a range of industries and across the globe to deliver on their mission to protect these amazing creatures.
We are adopting Rainbow the Dolphin!
We’re excited to announce that we are adopting one of the WDC’s dolphins.
Meet Rainbow, she’s a friendly and sociable mum of four; Prism, Indigo, Raindrop and her most recent calf (pictured above) who was born in August 2020 and yet to be named. The dolphin mother is easy to spot by the conservationists as she has a distinctive half keyhole-shaped nick on the back edge of her dorsal fin.
The adoption field officers have reported that Rainbow is a brilliant hunter and mother who is always in the mood for a bit of fun too! The mother and baby duo are often seen with the other adoption dolphins under WDC’s protection in Moray Firth, Scotland. The youngster is said to be filling out nicely and is learning Rainbow’s cheeky ways, too!
We’ve been lucky enough to chat to the Adopt a Dolphin Filed Officer at WDC, Charlie Philips, who has the privilege of keeping an eye on the amazing dolphin and whale species. Read on to find out more about Charlie’s role at WDC and why these incredible mammals are so important for our ecosystem.
Hi Charlie, tell us a bit about your job at Whale and Dolphin Conversation?
I am based in Inverness, the Highland capital in North Scotland and work all round the local coast, either on land or from boats, monitoring the local dolphin population, particularly the four individual dolphins that you can adopt with WDC, hence my job title: adopt a dolphin field officer. I am a professional wildlife photographer and use my skills to get up-to-date pictures and video of the local dolphins, give our adopters updates on the dolphins they adopt. My work also contributes to the scientific data used to study the dolphin population and whether it is increasing in numbers or declining. I worked with WDC for about five years as a consultant before becoming a full-time member of staff about fifteen years ago.
What does a day-in-the-life of being an adopt a dolphin field officer involve?
No two days are the same. I work around what the tides are doing, as this has a knock-on effect as to when dolphins might be hunting in the estuary conditions that we have in this area. For my land-based photography and filming, the tides are vital. If I’m out on either survey boats or onboard the two local wildlife tour boats as a guest guide, the tide times aren’t quite so important as we are moving around the coast and encounter dolphins as they are travelling from area to area. I get involved in filming with television companies and radio programmes, I meet and greet WDC guests, supporters and adopters and make visits to our Scottish Dolphin Centre along the coast at Spey Bay. I am a qualified marine mammal medic so sometimes get involved in rescues of stranded whales or dolphins. So, as you can see my job is a bit varied.
How can you tell the difference between different species of dolphin?
The most regular and easily seen coastal dolphin species is the bottlenose, the individuals I study are big, robust dolphins who create a lot of movement in the water when they travel. They are normally very active, especially when hunting, whereas the much smaller harbour porpoises are tricky to spot as they are so small and they don’t spend much time at the surface – blink and you miss them. Common dolphins (not as common now as the name suggests) are slenderer and faster moving dolphins than the bottlenoses, and have yellow/tan patch colouration along their sides and generally travel in bigger groups – lovely to watch but all too soon they are gone, back out to deeper water. Risso’s dolphins are big, chunky dolphins with blunt heads and no beak like the bottlenose or common dolphins. They have lots of white scratches all over their bodies and look almost white by the time they are fully mature adults.
What important role do whales and dolphins play in the marine ecosystem?
We need to save the whale to save the world! Whales and dolphins are kind of like ocean gardeners – their poo fertilises tiny plant-like organisms called phytoplankton that absorb carbon – a really hot topic right now – but whales and dolphins have been doing this for millions of years. Also, when big whales die, they sink to the seabed and their body becomes a source of food for lots of other species and stores a lot of carbon too.
What threats are whales and dolphins facing right now?
Sadly, as whales and dolphins are moving around the ocean helping to keep us all alive, they can get caught in fishing nets or get fishing rope wrapped round their tails and flippers. They swallow plastic bags and other rubbish that can jam their digestive systems, they face the threat of being captured so humans can make money from displaying them in theme parks and zoos and they are hunted by some countries despite a global ban on whaling. On top of all that, pollution can destroy important habitats and affect their reproduction systems – the list goes on.
How does Whale and Dolphin Conservation help to protect the lives and survival of whales and dolphins?
Through engagement with governments and policymakers in many different countries, funding and carrying out field research and rescue, running education and awareness campaigns and highlighting why whales and dolphins are brilliant and why they need and deserve protecting and cherishing for the future of the planet.
Are there many places to spot whales and dolphins in the wild in the UK?
There are great places to watch from land all around the UK coast – peninsulas that jut out into the sea are great places to look from, for instance in Scotland we have, most famously Chanonry Point for spotting bottlenose dolphins or Duncansby Head for looking out for orcas and Ardnamurchan Point for whales, dolphins and basking sharks. In England there’s the likes of Flamborough Head in Yorkshire for dolphins and whales, Swanage, Weymouth, Isle of Wight, Cardigan Bay in Wales … all great places to watch for a multitude of species. The most regular and easily seen coastal dolphin species is the bottlenose – big, robust dolphins who create a lot of movement in the water when they travel, normally very active, especially when hunting. The much smaller harbour porpoise is tricky to spot as they are so small but they don’t spend much time at the surface – blink and you miss them. Common dolphins (not as common now as the name suggests) are slenderer and faster moving dolphins than the bottlenoses, and have yellow/tan patch colouration along their sides and generally travel in bigger groups – lovely to watch but all too soon they are gone, back out to deeper water.
What are the benefits of whale and dolphin watching for both the public and those working in the field, and why is it so important that it is carried out responsibly?
More than ever, the need to be out and about in the fresh air with nature is not to be underestimated for both our physical and mental wellbeing, and whale and dolphin watching is a great way of engaging with highly charismatic species and their place in our world. This applies to the public and field workers like me. During the Covid lockdowns I personally was badly affected mentally as I was unable to go and do what I love doing and I’m only getting back to “normal” now that things are looking more optimistic. I have also heard from a lot of friends, supporters and adopters that they have been the same. It is also vital that wildlife watching is done with respect and awareness of how to watch responsibly and maybe even contribute to citizen science though initiatives like the WDC Shorewatch project. We need to give nature all the help it can get and following best practices we can enjoy nature immensely, especially whales, dolphins and porpoises but also learn to be a guest in their world.
What can families do to help support the work at the Whale and Dolphin Conservation?
Get in touch with us, join us or adopt a whale or a dolphin for direct support but you can also help us out with events and be a volunteer speaker, help us with petitions and local awareness, you could also become a Shorewatcher in Scotland. You can also think about how our daily lives affect whales and dolphins and how we can stop our world damaging theirs and then acting on it – plastic is a big topic, not letting plastic items like bags and bottles getting into the sea is a great help. Take part in a WDC Urban Beach Clean, see where you could volunteer if you have spare time. Follow @whalesorg on social media.
Do you have any advice for those who are aspiring to work in animal conservation?
Keep asking if you can help, maybe at rescue centres and charities, don’t give up, volunteer as much as you can, this may lead to a paid job one day (look at me!) and don’t lose the love for nature or helping protect it.
We’re celebrating World Ocean Day today, which encourages everyone to honour our oceans and aims to protect and restore them. What can we do as individuals to help support World Ocean Day not just today, but every day?
Join us and add your voice to our campaigns, write letters to your MP or your nations government, use social media (responsibly) to highlight how we need to reverse the terrible damage that we have done to our seas and oceans and all the wonderful species that it contains, spread the word that paying to see captive whales and dolphin while on holiday is an awful idea and if your travel agents promote this, tell them it’s SO wrong and choose another more ethical travel company. Vote with your money. Be careful how you dispose of rubbish and what you flush – this is an important and often overlooked problem. Help out with local beach-cleans etc.
A Frugi Quick-Fire Round:
My favourite thing about my job is… working with totally wild, free dolphins – the way they all should be.
The most incredible place I’ve visited as part of my job is… where I already work the Highlands of Scotland and the Moray Firth – I absolutely love it!
A fact you might not know about dolphins is… they don’t actually fall sleep the same way that we do, they take regular resting periods like “cat-naps” and keep one half of their big brains active while the other half rests.
The thing I love most about dolphins is… they are long lived, highly intelligent, sentient and emotional – what’s not to love?
We love our planet and try our best to protect it
By working together with our trusted manufacturers, we can create our outerwear and swimwear styles from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic and help divert waste from ending up in our seas. Turning old plastic into something Frugitastic!
Celebrate World Oceans Day today with our NEW World Oceans Day pledge and tag us on our socials (@welovefrugi) to let us know what you and your little ones are doing to help protect our oceans.