By Chris Clifone
My clock says 4:30am and I'm already late. I grab my bag and race down the road to Lahaina harbor. After an hour of prep our boat is ready for a sunrise whale watch.
It's just after 6 in the morning on the beautiful island of Maui and I'm aboard a vessel filled with 100+ people searching for the North Pacific Humpback Whale. Still slightly asleep I ask myself why the heck would anyone, especially people on their vacations, want to wake up at zero dark thirty to go whale watching. Then 100yrds off our starboard bow the answer comes to me. Like a bat out of hell one of the largest animals on this planet rockets its entire body up and out of the water. Surrounded by passengers in a total state of exuberance, cheering, clapping and crying, a subtle smirk crosses my face and I think to myself "Oh yeah, the same reason I wake up everyday at 4:30 in the morning."
Extinction was imminent for the North Pacific Humpback Whale. The early ‘70s brought us close to no return, and only about 500 were left in the entire north pacific. We were rewriting the history books, erasing one of the planet's oldest forms of consciousness. However, thanks to researchers, explorers and scientists we discovered that these whales could speak for themselves. They had a voice. They could sing. Their culture echoing through the blue, composing symphonies in the same manner as Mozart, Beethoven or Bach. The epiphany that another organism besides humans could create masterpieces sparked a movement. "Save the whales" was more than just a campaign, it was a necessity. Through all the hard work, protests, demonstrations and perseverance we are now looking at a population closer to 30,000 animals. To say we have witnessed one of the greatest success stories in conservation history is a bold statement. However, the resurgence of these whales is a testament to the bold. In one lifetime we have witnessed this population's epic journey to prove to the world that they too have every right to call this pale blue dot their home.
As a marine naturalist it is my job to spark conservation through inspiration. To show the world why these dolphins, reefs and whales are worth saving and to prove to them why this ocean is worth protecting. Focusing on success stories is, in my opinion, is one of the most effective conservation techniques. I get to show hundreds of passengers every single day that change can happen and progress has been made. Once we realize that the ocean is not a limitless commodity great things will happen.
The near extinction of these whales resulted from a human lifestyle that was, is and forever will be outdated and barbaric, but with knowledge and understanding we were able to completely change what seemed like the inevitable loss of these majestic creatures. If we can bring back one species from the brink of extinction, there’s no reason the same tactics can’t be replicated for other threatened animals.
Check out Chris' award winning film here: Be Blue