Rose Anne Everson, WCA Intern
12/10/2016: The Reach of Ripples
My mission as a WCA Net Effect Campaign intern included engaging with as many people as possible on the ocean after they have encountered cetaceans (whales, porpoise and dolphins) living wild and free in their natural habitat.
I began this blog with thoughts of the struggles to maximise the mission and my ability, or perceived inability, to speak or reach every passenger on board each tour. I would return home soon and wondered how I would, or could, quantify and qualify my “mission” as a success. Instead I discovered how truly amazing and humbling it has been to witness that moment when a fellow human being realises life on land is inextricably connected to life in our oceans.
On our way out to see the whales, educator/interns share information about local feeding grounds, toothed whales vs. baleen whales, whale facts and baleen whale feeding habits. While “on” whales, the naturalist narrates whale behaviours and, when visible, points out entanglement scars and damage caused by boat strikes and educator/interns log data. When our time with the whales comes to an end the educator/interns share additional whale facts and information with passengers on the ride back to the harbour.
The trip back to Gloucester harbour takes approximately 40 minutes and with 150 to 200 people on board introducing #NetEffect required creativity. I found that by combining existing Cape Ann training tools with WCA’s Net Effect campaign materials I could engage with a higher percentage of passengers in a meaningful, impactful way.
For example, the humpback fluke identification teaching tool includes a photo of Exclaim’s fluke before and after entanglement. As a result, the fluke damage photo became an opportunity to introduce the issue of global #ghostgear while also teaching passengers about fluke identification. Echo, whose fluke photo is also in the teaching tool, was reported as entangled off Cape Cod recently but had not yet been seen or found. Once again the fluke identification teaching tool provided an opportunity to speak in real time about the impact of entanglement and ghost gear on local marine life.
While sharing #NetEffect with passengers during one of my last whale watch trips on board Cape Ann Whale Watch, I experienced the magical reach of the ripple effect and its role in the exponential power of human awareness. Among the passengers I spoke with on this particular sunny day was a group of young women and, shortly thereafter, an elderly married couple.
The young women were located on the lower level portside and asked loads of questions about whales, ghost gear and entanglement and even took photos of the WCA teaching tools and my t-shirt with their cell phones. As our conversation came to a close, one woman shared that her animal welfare activism did not include our ocean’s animal life until she experienced whales in the wild and learned about Net Effect and the impact of global ghost gear. Her moment of clarity and conscious awareness that her work as an animal rights activist/advocate includes the rights of marine animals will ripple through the animal rights community.
The elderly couple actually stopped me on the bow and asked for clarification about feeding behaviours of baleen whales which I shared with a larger group on the way out to the whales. The woman removed a notebook from her purse and made notes as she asked questions about the connections of abundance in our oceans to abundance on land. She graciously shared that she and her husband were Pastors of their church and until experiencing humpback whales up close and learning about entanglement she had not considered God’s grace, protection and abundance included life in our oceans. She intends to share her experience and divine awareness in a sermon which will ripple through the consciousness of her community and beyond.
Coincidently, I had the pleasure of working with Mikhala, a CAWW naturalist intern who recently applied for a position with the Pacific Whale Foundation. As part of the interview process she was required to make a 20 minute presentation educating the public of all ages on a marine topic. She chose entanglement and by building upon “Netty the Net” her presentation communicated the urgent need to clean up our oceans and upcycle/recycle fishing gear. Mikhala was offered the position and will join Pacific Whale Foundation in November. Her exposure, awareness and knowledge of entanglement and #NetEffect will ripple through the Pacific Whale Foundation and, hopefully, extend to passengers on board their whale watch tours in Hawaii.
Every encounter and unique experience has taught me that one person willing to use their platform and voice to share their moment of clarity and awareness ripples throughout our human consciousness. As for my mission on board Cape Ann Whale Watch, it was a quantifiable and tangible success reaching farther than I imagined possible.