Turning the tide | WWF
Turning the tide

Posted on 11 April 2019

50 years of collaboration for whale and dolphin conservation
For much of human history, whales were only seen through the steamy mist of their blows, the glint of their backs barely breaking the surface of the ocean, or the elegant pulse of their flukes as they descend into the deep ocean beneath. Very little was known about whales and dolphins, and the diversity of marine wildlife that exists right off our shores. The last fifty years however have seen a remarkable increase in knowledge and expertise around whale and dolphin conservation.
 
Turning the tide briefly charts our growing  understanding of whales and dolphins, the  threats facing these intriguing creatures and the evolution of conservation approaches over the years. The report catalogues the rudimentary research techniques of the sixties right up to contemporary breakthrough technologies such as acoustic monitoring, genetic sampling, and satellite tagging, now applied to answer complex scientific questions. Ironically, the more we unravel the mysteries of these magnificent creatures, the more we realize that we are not curbing the activities that contribute  towards the precipitous declines in their populations.
 
The publication which WWF launches today, gives pause for reflection on fifty years of cetacean conservation. As Sir Peter Scott, founder of WWF observes, “If we cannot save the whales from extinction we have little hope of saving mankind and the life-supplying biosphere.”
 
This timely retrospective report showcases the important success stories in the long history of whale and dolphin conservation over the years – a journey taken by  WWF with valued collaborators.-  It also acknowledges difficult lessons learned, when sometimes, despite our best efforts, populations have continued to decline.
 
The report is a fascinating account of the tireless efforts of a number of dedicated individuals, governments and partners with whom WWF has worked in cetacean conservation. “From the gruelling debates in the bowels of international meeting halls to testing alternative fishing gear with artisanal fishers in rickety boats out in the waters of the Upper Gulf of California, these stories clearly demonstrate that over the fifty years, the one thing that has remained the same is our collective will to ensure that future generations can continue to marvel at the complexity and beauty of whales and dolphins as we have over the past 50 years.” Aimée Leslie, WWF Marine Turtle and Cetacean Bycatch Lead.
 
“The distances whales cover, transcending geographical boundaries and territories means that no single country can handle these challenges alone. These stories highlight the inextricable link between whale and dolphin conservation, and human wellbeing. This publication should inspire stronger and more focussed collaboration between all who care for whales and dolphins and bring new hope for their long-term future. .” Dr. Margaret Kinnaird, WWF Wildlife Practice Leader.

Read more about WWF's ongoing work to protect whales and dolphins here
A group of long-finned pilot whales swimming in the Canary Islands.
© Teo Lucas / Gigante Azul / WWF