WORLD Whale Day is Sunday, 20 February, and Sea Shepherd Australia is calling for more action to protect whales around the world from the devastating impact of industrial and illegal fishing, and the very real threats they face off Australia’s coast.
Each year, it is estimated that over 300,000 whales and dolphins die due to entanglement in fishing gear or as ‘bycatch’ to industrial fishing vessels.
Sea Shepherd is a non-profit conservation organisation whose mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world’s oceans to conserve and protect ecosystems and species. They use innovative direct-action tactics to investigate, document, and take action when necessary to expose and confront illegal activities on the high seas.
Although whaling around the world has been almost completely eradicated, these ocean giants are still facing human-made threats, including just off Australia’s iconic beaches.
“Every year we see whales caught in totally unnecessary shark nets along Australia’s East Coast, including four whales in 2021. It will only be a matter of time until another whale dies,” Sea Shepherd Australia’s Managing Director, Mr Jeff Hansen, said.
In 2013, a whale calf was killed in a shark net off Sydney.
“With increasing pressure for offshore oil and gas projects, the underwater cacophony from seismic testing vessels poses a huge threat to Australia’s whales,” Mr Hansen continued.
“This is simply not acceptable when they are already under threat from a loss of habitat and diminishing prey caused by climate change.
“Australians have long loved whales, and Australia was instrumental in protecting them in Antarctica.
“We should afford them the same protections off our coastlines. Our elected leaders can do so much more for our friends of the deep.”
Sea Shepherd has been protecting whales since 1977.
Between 2002 and 2017, Sea Shepherd conducted 11 Southern Ocean whale defence campaigns that saved the lives of over 6,000 whales from the Illegal Japanese whaling fleet.
“While other conservation groups have been out there talking about whale conservation, Sea Shepherd has been out there on the frontline, delivering tangible results with action.,” Mr Hansen continued.
Today, in the waters around Africa, Sea Shepherd is taking action to protect whales from illegal fishing by partnering with local governments to patrol their waters and arrest fishing vessels in breach of fisheries laws. Since 2016, over 65 vessels have been arrested.
In Gabon in 2016, Sea Shepherd crew assisted authorities in releasing a rare Bryde’s whale that was trapped in an industrial purse seine net.
Again in Gabon in 2021, Sea Shepherd captured shocking footage of two humpback whales caught in the net of a European Tuna fishing vessel.
“Sea Shepherd has seen first-hand just how damaging industrial fishing methods are to whales. We will continue to protect whales and dolphins from the devastating effects of industrial fishing, illegal or otherwise,” Mr Hansen added.
“Whales play a critical role as the farmers of the ocean.
“They fertilise our oceans, feeding phytoplankton and providing us with the air that we breathe. If we didn’t have whaling for all those years, we would have more phytoplankton in the ocean, more fish and more carbon in the atmosphere.
“In other words, whales play a critical role in fighting climate change, and thus putting whales first is putting humanity first.”