2016 is coming to an end and it seems as though these next few weeks can’t come fast enough for many people. This year has been rife with disappointment and distress for many of us but there have been a few bright moments as well and we hope that today you’ll join us in reflection and in celebration of our second anniversary.
In an effort to bring whale tales to life off of the electronic page we organized a number of events in 2016 to pair storytellers with story-lovers. On February 18 we held a networking and fundraising event that saw a number of stories shared amongst friends. Great company, delicious food, and a thirst quenching beverage are valuable ingredients in a Whale Tales recipe so we combined them again for our second annual event with our partners at the Saturna Island Marine Research and Education Society (SIMRES). This year’s SIMRES Sea Talk featured humpback whale researcher Jim Darling and he had us rapt in attention until well after the sun had set. We followed the sun to California in September to visit our friends at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Happywhale, who we continue to work with in an effort to contribute to a greater understanding of the whales in our tales. Rounding out the year we were very proud to partner with the Vancouver Aquarium for a unique After Hours event that brought together four passionate researchers and storytellers for a stand-up storytelling special. All three of your Whale Tales founders met and fell in love with whales at the Vancouver Aquarium so the opportunity to return to this organization and hear from folks at the forefront of their field was truly inspiring.
We’re grateful that shelf space is virtually unlimited online because thanks to these events and to you our library is quickly filling up with whale tales from around the world. We now have over 250 stories starring 2 species of porpoise, 6 species of dolphin, belugas, orcas, sperm whales, beaked whales, Minke, Bryde’s, Greys, humpbacks, right whales, and one big blue! J2 (Granny), the matriarchal Southern resident killer whale, continues to be our most prominent whale but she’s followed very closely by the active and rambunctious T137A who appears in the most number of Biggs killer whale tales. We also welcomed three new recurring storytellers into the fold this year. If you haven’t have a chance yet be sure to check out stories from Marcie, Mandy, and Whale Watch Western Australia for enchanting reads. Our library is only as good as the people who write in it and we continue to be so very thankful to all of our storytellers for sharing their experiences with us and with you.
Unfortunately this year, too many of these experiences had unhappy endings. After an exciting and hopeful year in 2015 the Southern resident killer whales suffered devastating losses this year as L95 “Nigel”, J14 “Samish”, J28 “Polaris”, J54 “Dipper”, and J55 were all pronounced dead. British Columbia’s Biggs’ killer whale population also lost at least one member in 2016 in T12A “Nitinat”. Early in the year 22 sperm whales stranded in Germany and were found to have accumulated massive amounts of plastic inside their bodies and we have seen too many entanglement stories to keep track of, affecting so many different species around the globe. While these tales are hard to take-in they are also important for inspiring change. We started Whale Tales because we believed that stories had the power to connect us to nature and encourage action. There are innumerable ways that we as individuals can make a difference in the lives of cetaceans. We have already created one resource on our website to help learn what to do if you encounter and animal in distress and we hope to continue to add additional resources to our site to help empower all of our readers in their efforts to protect our environment.
Thankfully there is always light to be found, even in the darkest of tunnels and this year was no exception. Throughout the Salish Sea this summer we saw mass amounts of humpback whales continuing the “humpback comeback” trend of the past few years. One of the humpback whales to return to British Columbia’s coast was fan favourite Big Mama who brought with her her SIXTH known calf who was nicknamed “Pop Tart” for its near-constant breaches! Superstar Migaloo, the all-white humpback whale, also returned to the East Coast of Australia this year, much to everyone’s joy.
We hope that our library can be a place to find stories that evoke all of your emotions. We strive to provide a free, searchable, user friendly database of cetacean stories that can be used to create meaningful connections and promote conservation and after only two years we are proud to have 266 Twitter followers, 1147 Facebook followers, and over 5000 Instagram followers (!) – all who have the opportunity to share their whale tales! We are so thankful to each and every one of our storytellers and readers because we really couldn’t do this without you. We look forward to celebrating and learning with those of you who can attend this year’s UBC Marine Mammal Symposium and we can’t wait to share our exciting plans for 2017. Thank-you for an amazing second year, we look forward to a great many more!