Whales are the earth’s largest mammals. They come up to breathe now and then, but spend most of their lives underwater, often migrating thousands of miles each year to breed and give birth. There are several species. Blue whales are huge (longer than the 100m you ran at school) with tongues the size of elephants, and hearts that weigh more than a car. They are fascinating creatures that sing underwater and are very close to their calves, which stay with them for years. Other species include humpback whales (one of the easiest to recognise), sperm whales (thankfully today jojoba oil is used more in beauty) and beluga whales (often round in Russian waters). Orcas (killer whales) are actually dolphins, and suffer greatly in aquariums as the pools are too small and shallow (they often suffer sunburn in the searing Floridian heat).
All whales are endangered, often due to warming oceans and plastic waste. In a few countries, people still hunt whales with harpoons, in order to sell their meat and blubber for beauty use. Here are some resources to help us save the whales, so that the next generations can continue to enjoy the beauty of these magnificent creatures for years to come.
How to Save Endangered Whales
- Live a simple life! This is always the best way to help any creature on the planet. Eat homemade plant-based food, fly less, only buy what you need (aside from the occasional gift), switch to a green energy supplier and do all you can to minimise your carbon footprint, which helps to reduce the risk of climate change.
- Take your litter with you. If you visit the beach, always take any trash with you and use a personal beach ashtray, if you smoke. Participate in beach clean-ups, and use biodegradable zero-waste options at home, to minimise the risk of non-biodegradable trash reaching the oceans.
- Ship strikes are a major cause of whale injury and death. If you sail, be a greener boater. Use biodegradable cleaning products and ensure you use a funnel when changing oil or antifreeze. Avoid jetskis, and follow wildlife-friendly boating codes.
- Never eat whale meat (this can sometimes be sold to unsuspecting tourists in Scandinavian countries and Russia). Also ensure beauty oils are sustainably sourced with ingredients lists (jojoba oil over blubber).
- Try plant-based alternatives to fish. If you eat fish, choose brands that avoid by-catch (catching other creatures in the nets) and if you fish, always take your fishing waste with you, to dispose of or recycle responsibly.
- Use biodegradable cleaning and beauty products. Everything that rinses down the drain goes to the sea. Using non-biodegradable items (including fragrance oils) causes algae bloom, which chokes the oxygen out of the water. And this harms all marine creatures.
- Don’t release balloons or fire lanterns. The former explodes in the air before it biodegrades (takes 6 months) and the tiny fragments are eaten by wildlife. Lanterns are fire hazards (get mistaken for coastal flares) and often drop metal spikes onto land or sea.
- Choose natural fibres (organic cotton, hemp, linen) for clothing. If you wear synthetic clothing (this includes recycled fibres like polyester made from plastic bottles) or use Microfiber cleaning cloths, use a microplastic catch bag, which catches some of the plastic fibres lost in the washing machine. Not perfect, but better than nothing at all.
- Use reef-safe sunscreens without chemicals that pollute the oceans, when they wash off (either in the sea or down the sink). Avoid zinc oxide used in many natural sunscreens near pets as it’s toxic – shower before letting them give you a lick!
Found an Injured or Stranded Whale?
- You can report any injured or stranded marine creature to British Divers Marine Life Rescue (coastguard and RSPCA can put you through) and The Wildlife Trusts.
- Support the animal in an upright position.
- Dig trenches under the pectoral fins.
- Cover with wet sheets, towels (or seaweed).
- Douse with water.
- Do NOT cover (or let water in) the blowhole (like our nostrils, doing so will cause harm).
- Take ID features to give injury details, and count breaths from the blowhole, and keep away from the tail, which could injure. Also note the weather (sand, shade, sun)
- Do NOT release the animal, until rescued team arrives.
Campaign to Stop Whaling
Despite the global ban, Norway continues to hunt minke whales under an ‘objection’, killing hundreds each year, subsidised by the government (most are pregnant females). Just like dairy is promoted in the west, whale meat is promoted to children as healthy, with ‘whale burgers’ offered at school festivals. Leftover pieces are tossed away, where they rot and pollute the sea. Many whales do not die instantly and bleed to death, or have to be shot.
The younger generation eat less whale meat, so it looks like this industry will naturally die out eventually, with less than 5% of Norwegians eating it (many hunters try to sell whale meat to Japan). So now they target western tourists, so be careful if you are offered ‘a steak’ on a cruise.
Whale oil can also find its way into beauty creams and health supplements. Jojoba oil is exactly the same as human sebum, so there is no need (not that there ever was) to use it in beauty products. Ambergris (in some perfumes) is sometimes used (find sustainable vegan perfumes instead) and never support tour companies that carry out whaling tours.
Look in stores for Gray Whale Gin. This lovingly handcrafted spirit from California was inspired by seeing a whale and her calf on a road trip in the Ocean, a journey that they have made for over 30 million years. This 12,000 mile journey is now celebrated using botanicals foraged along the migratory path, from Temecula limes to sea kelp. Each bottle supports Oceana, a charity that protects and restores the world’s oceans.