Friday, 21 March 2014

Whalefest 2014

For me the weekend of 14th - 16th March was all about Whalefest. It started early with a journey from my home to the Plant Whale office in Brighton, and then on to the Brighton Metropole, where the event was being held. The event was expected to attract around 10,000 visitors, and when you looked at the variety of events on offer, it was easy to understand why.

I arrived at the Planet Whale office, to find my great friend and co-founder Dylan Walker waiting. We had a busy day ahead, helping to set up things at the Metropole, but also organise events planned for later on Brighton Beach. As well as the main Whalefest event on the Saturday and Sunday, there are many fringe events that go on around the city. Todays event was releasing a life-size inflatable killer whale into the sea, with the help of Dr Ingrid Visser, Virginia Mckenna and the British Divers Marine Life Rescue.

Virginia McKenna and Dr Ingrid Visser with the life size inflatable Orca

The event was planned to highlight the 'Long Swim to Freedom' campaign which focusses on the plight of whales and dolphins that are held in captivity throughout the world. Particular emphasis was being put on Morgan, the young female orca that is been kept in captivity in Loro Parque in the Canary Islands. Morgan was found stranded in The Netherlands and taken into care, but rather than release her back into the wild after recuperation, she has been incarcerated in a Loro Parque pool since.

Preparing to lift the Orca
The lift
Carrying the orca down to the tide line

The release event went well with hundreds of people turning out to watch it. I have to admit seeing a life size inflatable killer whale lifted off a trailer that was towed by the Born Free Foundation, by a giant crane, carried down to the sea and then towed out by the British Divers Marine Life Rescue, was not something that you see every day in Brighton, but it really got the crowd going.

Dr Ingrid Visser celebrating after the release
Volunteers and supporters celebrating the event

Saturday 15th March
The theme for Saturday was captivity, and getting whales, dolphins and other animals released. The event opened at 9am and there was a crowd of expectant whale-festers waiting as the doors opened. The event calendar was packed with the crowd pulling events all being held on the main stage. Gok Wan opened the event officially, followed by presentations from Dr Ingrid Visser, Virginia McKenna and Steve Backshall, a captivity question time was headed up by Dr Naomi Rose and Haruyoshi Kawai presented Light Animal.

A very attentive audience listening to Steve Backshall

There were of course events, presentations, exhibitor stands and displays throughout the two floors, with so much to see that many people had purchased weekend tickets. The display below was a memorial to all the whales, dolphins and sharks that had died in captivity.

This is just part of the memorial to all the whales, dolphins and sharks
that have died in captivity around the world

The event closed at 17:30, but at 19:30 the doors were open again for a directors cut of the movie Blackfish. The event was hosted by Dr Naomi Rose, Dr Ingrid Visser,  Samantha Berg, Will Travers and Miranda Krestovnikoff. They all chose their preferred clip from the movie and then spoke about why they had chosen it; this was then followed by a question and answers session with the audience. A truly excellent way to end the day.

Sunday 16th March
The theme for Sunday was the plight of Maui’s Dolphin, a beautiful dolphin from North Island, New Zealand. The species has undergone a dramatic decline in numbers as a result of bi-catch. There are now only 50 Maui’s dolphins left and the failure of New Zealand’s government to ban the use of gill nets in inshore waters, is pushing the species closer to extinction. Dr Barbara Maas, head of Endangered Species Conservation at NABU International, is driving the campaign to save Maui’s dolphins.

Barbara Maas - presenting distressing images of bi-catch Maui's Dolphins

This graph illustrates  the decline of Maui's since the 1970's with it's
predicted extinction between 2026 - 2031

Barbara Maas after her presentation

Main Stage events for Sunday started with a short film highlighting the plight of Maui’s dolphin but was followed by talks from Miranda Krestovnikoff, Dr Barbara Maas, Pete Bethune and Dr Horace Dobbs. Spy in the pod producer Rob Pilley showed off his tuna, turtle and dolphin cams and the Ngati Ranana Maori Club performed powerful tradition dances.

Rob Pilley with his tuna cam at Whalefest

Ngati Ranana Maori Club we very popular with the crowd performing a collector of traditional Moari dances.

Ngati Ranana Maori Club in full swing

The event closed with a campaign update from co-founders Dylan Walker and Ian Rowlands which announced that the event had raised £10,000 for the events campaigns. It was a resounding success with thousands of visitors passing through the doors. Unfortunately I did not get time to see much of the event as I was working, but there are many high points for me. 

Captivated by Dolphins

To see so many children at the event was brilliant, hopefully some of them will be the next generation of whale and dolphin campaigners and Whalefest volunteers. The image above highlights this perfectly; this young's lads mum was calling him to leave but he just stood captivated by Rob Pilleys filming of dolphins. 

The Whalefest volunteers are an amazing and dedicated group of people who give so much time to make this event work. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer please contact Planet Whale at

I end this post with the image below which illustrates how many carrier bags one shopper collects over the course of one year. The sad fact is that much of this plastic is not biodegradable and ends up in our oceans. The impacts of plastics in the oceans on seabirds and cetaceans has been well documented so please help it stop.

1 comment:

  1. Great blog Trevor! You have captured the WhaleFest weekend perfectly! Such a joy to be part of an amazing community bringing much needed change to the Whales & Dolphins and of course, lovely to see you again.


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