by Shilpa Shah
Windy weather conditions mean there has been one boat trip in the last three days. We see four speedy white-beaked dolphins and some colourful puffins. A small part of me feels sad to not see orcas again. But I know deep down that that is just how it is today. I look out to the horizon and imagine them being there and my heart does a little somersault.
Being land-tied has given me time to discuss the core principles of Orca Guardians with founder and president Marie. The collection of data about the orcas around the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in Iceland is the foundation for the research, education and conservation work of the organisation. Ensuring research methods are ‘non-invasive’ is a principle at the heart of Orca Guardians’ work.
In Alexandra Morton’s wonderful book “Listening to Whales” about her work with orcas, she says ‘I know the very best hope for any species on earth today is that some group of humans love it’. She goes on to say ‘but the line is fine between guardianship and molesting a species’.
I learn more about what ‘non-invasive research methods’ means.
• Orcas are never tagged or biopsied in any way (even temporary tags can leave scars on orca’s backs).
• Photographic (and sometimes audio) data is collected upon Láki Tour’s whale-watching boat trips, rather than adding another boat on the water and additional noise pollution around the whales.
• The photos are used to identify individuals and spot patterns in groupings, feeding behaviours, migration paths.
• Láki captains drive their boats in a way that strictly avoids disturbance or harm to the whales.
Marie says ‘we want to encourage people to protect orcas in a way that lets them be just as they are, without human interference’.
These words settle over me as I sit by the harbour in Grundarfjörður. To admire and support another being in a way that centres the needs and freedom of that being…. Perhaps this is a way to define love? I look out to sea and my heart does a little somersault again.