Tell us about yourself
My name is Zack Shoom, and I am the founding director of the environmental group Obabika – a not for profit creative and strategic consulting studio based out of coastal British Columbia Canada.
Where did your whale love start?
Truth be told, my love for whales actually starts with salmon. In university, I quickly pivoted (after 1 day to be exact) from a graphic design degree to study environmental management and hydrology – I dug deep into rivers, habitat availability, and the effects of our changing world on all of it.
I quickly realized that Pacific salmon species were the lifeblood of the Pacific North West, and their downfall could mean drastic things for animals all along the food chain; apex predators in wolves and Orcas, and micro-organisms in coastal temperate rainforests.
Since the emergence of recent research associated with whales of all species, I have devoted a lot of our capacity at Obabika to work alongside groups who are causing direct change for the ailing Southern Resident Killer Whales.
What current ocean conservation issue do you feel most strongly about?
Right now, Obabika is running a campaign with Georgia Strait Alliance to advocate for the installment of what’s called tertiary treatment to the largest wastewater facility in the area. The facility is called Iona Island, and it currently under-treats 2 billion litres of wastewater every year, and the outflow is pumped directly into the Salish Sea – critical habitat for the Southern Resident Killer Whales. It also has direct implications to the pacific salmon species that are the predominant food source for these ailing Orcas.
Without tertiary treatment, Iona Island is pumping out microplastics, harmful chemicals like nitrogen and phosphorus, as well as pharmaceuticals.
What have you changed in your life to help save whales?
In my personal life, I never do nor really ever have supported farmed salmon or gil-net caught seafood. I also purchase less, and go package free when I can. I avoid non-credible news, and try to hear both sides of the stories before forming my own opinions.
What advice would you give to others to take steps in their lives to help whales?
I think the general public (and ourselves as ‘environmental professionals’) have a long way to go in understanding the root causes of the issues that are impacting the livelihood of whales. In the Salish Sea and British Columbia there is a lot of important work being done, as well as lots of advocacy which can be alarming, overwhelming, and not entirely truthful. I feel like its crippling to hear a lot of this information at times, and we are often alienating people from understanding an issue or helping to solve it.
I encourage anybody reading this to do some research about the causes that mean the most to you, and support your favorite environmental efforts which have a tangible impact. Obabika does a great job 🙂
Any whale tales to share?
When a few friends and I were out surfing on the West Coast of Vancouver Island we witnessed what one of the first sightings of a newborn calf to the J-pod of Southern Resident Orcas. So smol. So squishy.