brighton dolphins

03 Apr The WCA Launches the Brighton Dolphin Project!

Brighton Dolphin Project – The WCA’s new initiative to engage our local community

The World Cetacean Alliance (WCA) is a global partnership of some of the most inspiring organisations, businesses and individuals in the world. Our Partners work tirelessly in over 35 countries (March, 2018) to protect all whales, dolphins and porpoises.

The WCA recognises the importance of working with local communities to initiate change for marine conservation. The WCA Partners engage with local communities all over the world to celebrate cultural links with cetaceans whilst promoting marine conservation and sustainable tourism through art, education and events.

While our Partners and their work is at the core of the WCA, the day to day running of the organisation takes place in Brighton on the south east coast of the United Kingdom. This is the WCA Secretariat, where staff support the Partnership and administer the various projects and initiatives of the organisation.

But something was missing…. We realised that while we promote community engagement throughout the Partnership, we have not been leading by example here in Brighton.

While many might not realise it, Brighton has a rich cultural heritage with whales and dolphins.

In 1982 huge demonstrations took over its streets to bring an end to the hunting of whales around the world. This led to the historic signing of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) treaty in the Brighton Hilton Hotel, a legacy of anti-whaling, which still stands today.

Brighton aquarium was one of the aquariums involved in the revolutionary ‘Into The Blue’ campaign, which brought an end to over two decades of dolphin captivity in the UK. Three dolphins from the aquarium were released in the Caribbean Sea in the early 1990s and because of this the UK is now regarded as a shining example in the anti captivity world.

From 2012 to 2015, Brighton hosted an annual whale festival call Whale Fest. This was organised by WCA CEO Dylan Walker, WCA Partner Incredible Oceans founder Ian Rowlands and a huge team of volunteers. The events were a huge success, with 30,000 visitors attending the last event in 2015. The legacy of this festival has left two impressive murals showcasing the plight of these animals on the streets of Brighton.

Every year there are multiple sightings of cetaceans off the Brighton coast. August 2017 saw a pod of over 30 bottlenose dolphins off the Palace Pier, while a lone dolphin was seen around the west pier for several days in 2015. Unfortunately, occasionally we also see deceased cetaceans washed up on the Sussex shoreline, often as a result of bycatch.

Even walking throughout the City or along the famous seafront, dolphin imagery can be seen everywhere from fountains to emblems on the railings, as well as on the Brighton coat of arms.

However, Brighton’s connection to the marine environment is being lost. Although the economy of the city relies on the sea just off that famous pebble beach, many residents and visitors do not know anything about what is out there. What animals can be found? How deep is it? Does it need protecting?

So the WCA Secretariat asked ourselves the question ‘how can we take the values and principles of the WCA and instil them in our local community here in Brighton?’

Conservationists from Friends of the Earth dressed as sea creatures demonstrate outside a Brighton hotel where the International Whaling Commission began a two day meeting to set catch limits on sperm whales.

© Press Association

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© Brighton Dolphin Project

And so, the WCA has launched the Brighton Dolphin Project.

The Brighton Dolphin Project is an exciting new initiative that aims to improve awareness of the importance of local marine ecosystems and species in the Brighton area. The project aims to do this through educational experience and outreach, including developing a visitor centre on Brighton Seafront to host events and inform visitors of Brighton’s local wildlife and to run educational workshops and educational courses.

The Brighton Dolphin Project hopes to employ staff to support running the visitor centre and to develop outreach events, for example providing opportunities for local businesses to become ‘Brighton Dolphin Friendly’. The Project aims to carry out activities including classroom sessions and visits to marine protected areas and nature reserves with the Brighton and Lewes Downs Biosphere Reserve. The Project will be an important link with local stakeholders to encourage sustainable practices within the community such as low carbon usage, reductions in plastic use and ghost fishing gear, and responsible tourism.

While still in its early stages the WCA hopes to showcase what a local community project can do to raise awareness of cetaceans, their habitats and the marine environment, and of what people can do to help protect and conserve them. We hope to be able to use lessons learnt here in Brighton to help support Partner initiatives in other communities around the world. All with the vision of ‘a world where cetaceans are found only in the wild, are respected and fully protected, and live in sustainable habitats and in harmony with people everywhere’.

For more information contact Alex Hughes, Brighton Dolphin Officer 

alex.hughes@worldcetaceanalliance.org

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© WhaleFest

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