Tracie S.is an Etsy Artist, Marine Mammal Naturalist- essentially a nerd for all things ocean.
Where did your whales love start?
Since childhood, I’ve always had an interest in the ocean and was lucky enough to grow up near the Pacific Ocean. I would never get tired of just looking out to sea from- from land or from a boat- looking for whatever life might be visible, particularly whales and dolphins. Growing up, my parents fostered this interest with whale watching trips, visits to Monterey Bay and a science camp trip on Catalina Island. From all of the above, I just fell more and more in love with the complexity, intelligence and curiosity of cetacean life!
What current ocean conservation issue do you feel most strongly about?
There are so many… I think the one of the largest issues right now is marine pollution- discarded fishing gear, industrial waste and chemicals, vessel noise and just plain old trash. It is so damaging to all forms of marine life large and small.
What have you changed in your life to help save whales?
Along with my interest in whales, I’ve also had an interest in creating things with my hands. Over the past few years, I’ve put the two together and used my abilities to make visual art that I hope will help people discover the beauty of the ocean. People protect what they love, so it is important to show others how to love the ocean and all its creatures. I also hope to communicate marine conservation issues through that.
I also received a Naturalist certification with the American Cetacean Society which allowed me to help educate the public about whales and dolphins. It is really a blessing to see people react with joy to their first time seeing a whale and being completely amazed!
In terms of day to day life, I have greatly changed grocery/home shopping and my diet. After learning how much trash is in the ocean, I cannot see plastic the same way. I avoid it as much as I can and focus on purchasing things with packaging that is biodegradable, recyclable or reusable.
What advice would you give to others to take steps in their lives to help whales?
Cutting down on how much trash you produce is a big one- and for trash there is, reuse, recycle and/or compost. Educate yourself on where your seafood comes from- or avoid it all together. Hundreds of whales, dolphins and many other animals are caught/killed as bycatch in the commercial seafood industry. Additionally, many fish farms spread disease and pollution into wild fish populations.
Communicating with others on how to help whales and why it’s important to do so is also a great help. Whether it’s face to face, on social media or through creative efforts (art, design, music, etc.) we all have a different way of spreading word- find your way and use it!
Any whale tales to share? (what’s your favourite one you’ve already shared?)
I am quite lucky to have many great experiences with whales! It is hard to pick one, but I think the most impressive one was an encounter during a trip to Monterey Bay with about 50 humpback whales feeding all together. The whales were broken up into groups of 3-5 and would continuously pop up together lunging through the surface with mouths chomping.
The water was so thick with baitfish that the vessel’s fish finder did not even show the bottom!
What was even more amazing was that this all happened right off of a beach- all the action was clearly visible from land. The depth could not have been more than 50 feet.
It was difficult to move the boat with so many whales around, so it was left in neutral several times. The whales would pop up all around- sometimes just a few yards away from us. I ended up going out again the following day and the whales were STILL feeding in the same numbers in the same area! It was the same rare and extremely active setting- it was incredible.