Our Future Whale Watchers Scholarship – 2nd Place
February 27, 2018
Our Whale Watchers Scholarship competition was a great success with entries from many different students who had a passion for the ocean and it’s wildlife. We asked all participants to answer the question:
WHAT PRACTICAL CHANGES CAN PEOPLE MAKE TO ENSURE THAT CANADIAN OCEANS ARE A SAFER PLACE FOR WHALES?
Our second finalist is Nathan S, who is studying Biological Sciences at Simon Fraser University in BC, talks about how we forget about whales in our day to day lives. Great job Nathan! You can read our third-place entry from Jordyn B here.
How We Forgot About Whales
What’s the most harmful thing that affects whales? Answers range from whaling, to pollution, to excess boat noise; there are countless factors that affect them. The problem is that all the problems whale populations face today can be traced to one problem: our lack of interest. While individuals and some organizations do care for the wellbeing of these giants, the harm done by industry, business, and others alike far outweigh conservation efforts. Simply put, this is because these people are not concerned with the whale’s wellbeing; there is profit to be made in their habitats or from them, or both. To ensure that Canadian oceans are contributing to the growth of whale populations, their health must be the most beneficial option for consumers, businesses, industry, government, and third-party organisations alike.
For consumers to become involved in conservation efforts, several criteria must be met for any project to be significant. The project must be relatively small and comparably cheap, but deeply impactful, otherwise it might not get support. For businesses and government to invest money into projects, they must have the public’s support, cause an impact, and create some revenue. Most importantly, the project must be accessible to all levels of social class, whether it be a physical product or development. Without wide scale accessibility and appeal, only a fraction of the population would promote conservation efforts; efforts which would continue to be undermined by industry and environmental damage, ultimately repressing any change.
The question now becomes “what is a good middle ground between economics and conservation?” Like the big-game hunting grounds in Africa which, largely contribute to the conservation efforts of rhinos, giraffes, and other large endangered species, one solution may be to promote whales and other aquatic creatures within the tourism industry. Aquariums, whale watching tours, perhaps even ferries and shipping could charge more for their services and have a larger amount of the revenue go towards conservation and research. This would provide increased funding for organisations in coastal areas. As well, simply increasing the amount of exposure people have to whales and the issues that they face would be beneficial as people become more aware of the larger impact they have.
Unfortunately, apathy is not the physical cause of harm to whales or other aquatic life. Pollution, habitat loss, fishing, and other issues threaten the areas where these creatures live. These issues must also be addressed to ensure safer oceans. Plans like greater education towards environmental health are helping to stop waste from entering our oceans, however, there must be more done. Stricter laws on waste dumping, littering, and burning garbage should be in place and enforced. In addition, environmentally friendly options to reduce plastic and organic waste could be implemented within urban areas by introducing more recycling depos and awareness regarding them, therefore removing some waste which could end up in our waterways; having recycling be a cheaper option could attract businesses and individuals to this idea. These plans, however, would require a societal and social shift away from wastefulness, with most of the population being actively knowledgeable about environmental concerns.
Saving endangered animals, protecting the environment, and sometimes even preserving our own health and safety are not enough to promote large scale change in today’s forgetful and distracted world. By putting monetary values on our oceans, perhaps enough people will work towards keeping them, and the creatures within them, safe from harm. Getting people involved with conservation efforts, educating people regarding the environment, and promoting economic incentives for people to help protect Canadian oceans are all good, but they need enough support behind them to create change. Engaging people might be the solution.