When not in the woods or on the ocean, Keely L. can be found expounding on topics of biology to whomever will listen-preferably over good food and drinks!
Where did your whale love start?
I have to say, don’t remember there being a specific moment (being a girl from the prairies), instead I would say it has been a sum of many moments (which only makes it stronger). From visiting the Vancouver Aquarium when I was young (I distinctly remember being splashed by a killer whale), visiting the Shedd Aquarium in university, and generally having continued to experience and learn more about whales, dolphins, porpoises (cetaceans). Once you learn that a blue whale has a heart that is roughly the size of a VW beetle, that resident killer whales share salmon within their family groups (a bite for you, a bite for me. Really, just their social dynamics), even just the strange skulls of beaked whales, there’s just no going back, they’re far too cool.
What current ocean conservation issue do you feel most strongly about?
I’m going to ‘cheat’ a little here and say for me, it’s a lot about oceans often seeming so far removed and thus being largely unregulated – that there is no one country, organization, etc. that has anything to do with regulating any aspect of it – something often referred to as the “tragedy of the commons.”
As oceans are a resource we all share it’s not always as noticeable (or doesn’t always feel like we can do something meaningful about) when the ocean becomes filled with plastics and chemicals, when people are taking too many fish, when oceans become too acidic, when huge chunks of ice cleave in to the sea, all of which directly affects cetaceans. It’s easy for people to feel far removed from the ocean in their daily lives, because there is so much that demands our attention and feels more immediate.
So really, I would just love if people could (would?) feel more strongly connected to oceans/nature because then perhaps, just perhaps, these tragedies of the commons wouldn’t be as prevalent.
What have you changed in your life to help save the whales?
I’ve spent over a decade of my life trying to connect people to oceans and nature so that it doesn’t all feel so foreign and distant – so that people might be inspired to learn more, to care more. I’ve spent a lot of time educating and communicating ocean science and helping people take those steps for themselves. For me, continually learning goes a long way.
In terms of practical, real life every day sorts of things though? Over these years I have become very particular about what sort of seafood I eat (I look for Ocean Wise seafood, and don’t eat chinook, open-net farmed salmon, tuna, and pretty much any and all shrimp <sigh>), I ride my bike or walk a lot, I hang dry my clothes, I constantly work to reduce plastics in my life (this one can be pretty hard), I constantly work to learn more about the natural world around me (so many books! Yay!), and I always keep talking…
What advice would you give to others to take steps in their lives to help the whales?
Learn. Learn as much as you can. Tell other people what you learned. Take what you learn and ensure it becomes something actionable (did you not know that you shouldn’t wash your car on the street, as it can wash harmful chemicals to salmon habitat? Drive the car on to the lawn instead, so the soil filters it, or take it to a car wash that properly cycles their water). Always challenge yourself, your family, your friends to do something new (this is the year you try going plastic free for a month, perhaps? Or next week you ride your bicycle or take transit to work or the store at least once). What it’s going to be to help cetaceans is going to be something different for everyone, but there’s always something we can do. Find what it is for you, and see what else you can do next month.
Any whale tales to share?
It’s really a story of love. A love of blue whales and the complicated love of marriage.
You see: I love blue whales. Love them. Desperately want to see one. A couple years ago my husband and I travelled to Iceland, but I did the trip with some girlfriends and he travelled by himself (we split ways at the airport). He was travelling to the north part of the island which is well known for excellent whale watching (it’s near the arctic circle and excellent feeding grounds. Lots of less common species). It’s also known for blue whales. This was an area of the country we women were not visiting. When I learned of his whale watching plans, I told him the following: “If you see a blue whale without me. It’s grounds for divorce. Full stop. Take that under advisement.”
He went anyways.
Something to know about Iceland is that it is windy. We often commented that all the wind in the world seemed to terminate in Iceland. There is always wind and seemingly it comes from all directions. What does that mean for the seas? Naturally, they are not calm. On that day (the day that would decide our marriage) my husband forgot to take Gravol until the boat was pulling away from shore. By that time, it was too late. The poor man made his …“offerings to the sea”… seven times. Seven!
They saw puffins.
And yes, he saw (you guessed it), a blue whale.
Naturally we are still married, as I obviously was not actually going to divorce him if he saw a blue whale without me (but surely you all must know where I was coming from on this, right!?)
So this is my story of NOT seeing a whale.
…(Not the typical tale…)