The collaboration between whale watching companies in the Pacific Whale Watch Association (PWWA) and other groups makes whale watching in the inland waters of Washington state and British Columbia unique, resulting in some of the most responsible whale watching on the planet. Erin Gless, the executive director of the Pacific Whale Watch Association, joins us to discuss the origins of the PWWA and the special collaboration that takes place on the water to promote responsible whale watching, education, research and conservation.
But first we share some of recent sightings from our whale watching tours with Maya's Legacy Whale Watching in the San Juan Islands. We've been seeing more humpbacks as they are returning to their summer feeding waters in the Salish Sea, including several encounters with Divot (BCX1057) and Zephyr (BCZ0414). On a few of those encounters the mom and daughter were traveling together. We also discuss encounters with large groups of Bigg's killer whales, highlighting a day where we watched a group of 19 killer whales traveling hard against a strong tide in the narrow part of San Juan Channel. Included in this group were iconic whales T87 (Harbeson) and T63 (Chainsaw). Photos included below. We wrap up the latest sightings from our encounter seeing a big family reunion with T65, T63, the T65As and T65Bs. Later in this episode we talk about this entire family in more detail.
We turn the discussion to responsible whale watching and welcome Erin, who has been working in the whale watch community in various locations since 2008 and is currently the executive director of the Pacific Whale Watch Association. Erin talks with us about the origins of the PWWA and how it currently represents 30 companies over a large geographic range, spanning from Seattle in the south to Telegraph Cove, BC to the north, and Port Renfrew to the west. We discuss at length the unique nature of the collaboration between companies and how this differs from whale watching in many parts of the world. The discussion includes how this collaboration creates responsible whale watching practices and makes this region such a popular whale watching spot, with different groups and species of whales being documented on an almost a daily basis. We also talk about how this collaboration spans outside PWWA with other whale watching associations, ferries, commercial shipping, researchers and others.
We then discuss data collection being done by PWWA operators, including sentinel actions, which are proactive steps taken on the water to protect whales and other wildlife throughout the shared waters of the Salish Sea.
We wrap up our discussion with Erin by talking about how to find and choose a responsible whale watching company in other parts of the world.
We conclude the episode by introducing a new segment called “Meet the Matrilines” in which we will be talking in detail about a specific family of Bigg's killer whales in each episode. This episode’s matriline is one that we often mention in our latest sightings, the T65 family tree, which include T65, her presumed son, T63, her oldest daughter T65A and her 5 kids, and her youngest daughter T65B and her 3 kids.
We will be holding a photography workshop / all day whale watching & wildlife tour on Saturday, September 23rd and Sunday, September 24th. You can sign up for one day or both. We will be on the water all day(6-8 hours) and the price includes catering, photography instruction, and whale ID tips. It will be a lot of fun. If you are interested please email us at email@example.com.
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For complete show notes, links and photos, please visit our website: https://www.afterthebreachpodcast.com/e/episode-14-responsible-whale-watching
Links mentioned in this epsisode:
- Pacific Whale Watch Association: https://www.pacificwhalewatchassociation.com/
- PWWA Sightings & Sentinel Action Reports: https://www.pacificwhalewatchassociation.com/annualreports
Photos mentioned in this episode:
Iconic Bigg's killer whales T87 born est 1962 (Harbeson) left, and T63 (Chainsaw) born 1978 right. Photo by Jeff Friedman
Bigg's killer whales pushing against tide in San Juan Channel. Photo by Jeff Friedman.
Sentinel action: removing discarded fishing gear from the water. Photo by PWWA.
Sentinel action: whale warning flag for other vessels. Photo by PWWA
Shared waters: Bigg's killer whales & BC ferry. Photo by Sara Shimazu
Shared waters: Bigg's killer whales & Washington ferry. Photo by Sara Shimazu
Shared waters: Cruise ship with humpback whale. Photo by Ellie Sawyer
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