Tales of Saving Whales – James A.

Tell us about yourself
I am a 25-year-old recent graduate of Climate Change (MSc) at Copenhagen University with a passion for adventure, the outdoors, and the conservation of wild places. Now living back in Scotland, fell running, open water swimming and road biking are a centrepiece of most of my days. Outside of my hobbies, I share my sustainability thoughts on my podcast, SDGTalks, where I invite on changemakers to discuss issues and solutions related to the UN sustainable development goals.

Where did your whale love start?

Since a young age I have been extremely fond of the wild and wild places. I have always had a love for wildlife, but to be honest whales never took any special place until the day I actually saw one. This all changed when I visited Canada, and I was fortunate enough to see the oldest living orca (J2 “Granny” – Age 103ish at the time) and a whole host of her kin and a humpback whale and calf. Since then, I have travelled to Tasmania to hopefully see more of these great ocean beasts, only to see fur seals (also very cool). But, now I am home in Scotland, and I now know that we too in fact have a great host of resident and migratory whales, so I am hopeful to see some closer to home this year!

What current ocean conservation issue do you feel most strongly about?

Plastic pollution is without a doubt the most visible and shocking conservation issue in my mind today. Although overfishing and climate change are perhaps more impactful in terms of species decline, these are issues that can be adapted to, to some extent. We can enforce protection measures for stocks to bounce back, and marine wildlife can migrate and enter new niches under warming scenarios. Plastic pollution is not an adaptable scenario.

Everytime I jump in the sea for training, or walk down the beach, I find old bottle caps, fishing line, and plastic bags. It is these materials which are not only accumulating rapidly in the ocean but which we cannot remove. They will simply break down further and further until they are able to enter the living cells of the entire food web. The potential hazards this could inflict on us and the planet for the next hundred generations I don’t want to imagine.

What have you changed in your life to help save whales?

The past few years of my life have been of transformation, towards a more sustainable and ethical way of living. As plastic pollution, overfishing and climate change are some of the great threats to our whales and oceans, these are the areas I have had a focus on. I avoid plastic as much as possible (ditching the toothpaste for the paste pills was hard), I don’t eat fish (or meat), and I try to generally minimise consumption in my life.

I am currently also raising awareness for the Hebridean Whale & Dolphin Trust here in Scotland to support the great work they do in the protection & conservation of marine mammals in our waters. The challenge I have taken on for this awareness is a 180 Mile Swim, Run & Bike across the Outer Hebridean Isles in August 2021. The race is also hopefully a chance to inspire others to take action to support their local environment and any charities that are working towards such a goal. Check it out and support if you can 🙂

What advice would you give to others to take steps in their lives to help whales?

Every journey begins with a single step, and no one, even with the best intentions, can change overnight. I think it’s important to consider what things you actually care about in the world and why. Then when you want to make habitual changes in line with those values, it is easier to bear the discomfort of change because you are doing it for this higher purpose which you have defined.

(Almost) Everybody likes steak, and likes the convenience of not carrying extra shopping bags or picking up rubbish on their walks, but if you have a purpose these inconveniences don’t matter. Because you are doing it for something greater.

Any whale tales to share?

My only whale tale I can share is that of the trip to when I saw Granny in British Columbia. It was an epic trip out on the boats, and ended with a bit of heartbreak because the Humpback whales we saw were actually being hunted. This is also a reminder of the realities of Mother Nature and life! 🙁

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.