It’s unnerving to think that each year, hundreds of whales and dolphins strand on the shores of New Zealand. In fact, New Zealand has the highest stranding rate in the world. Some are sick or injured; others are perfectly healthy and need a helping hand back into the water. On average 300 animals strand in New Zealand each year and mass stranding can also be common, which can involve 100’s of animals at a time. But if you were to see a beached whale how many of us actually know how to help these magnificent marine mammals get back to the water?
Project Jonah, a New Zealand born and bred charity, is tackling this issue head on. They describe their mission as wanting to create a world where whales and dolphins are respected and protected. They began in 1974 as an anti-whaling movement and have been highly proactive ever since. They helped bring into place the 1978 Marine Mammal Protection Act and designed the world’s first marine mammal rescue floatation device.
Another way in which Project Jonah is achieving their mission is incredibly unique; by training people to become Marine Mammal Medics. This means that anyone who takes their course will be capable of rescuing a stranded marine mammal and will be added to a national callout list to help when needed. The $120 ($75 for students) one day course trains you with the skills needed to help rescue beached marine mammals when called upon. An undoubtedly incredible and interesting opportunity which is not just life-saving, but hugely rewarding. Project Jonah has so far provided thousands of volunteers with the invaluable skills to rescue stranded dolphins and whales and are the only national voluntary group in New Zealand that are able to do this.
If, however, you feel you are unable to commit time to do this then there are other ways in which you can help Project Jonah. Firstly their website provides lots of general advice on stranding. For instance, it gives two to hot lines to ring if you witness a stranding (DOC stranding hotline: 0800 DOC HOT – 0800 362 468, Project Jonah stranding hotline: 0800 4 WHALE – 0800 4 94253) and information on general first aid for stranded whales. In addition to this you can volunteer or become a fundraiser for Project Jonah. This includes many opportunities such as collecting donation boxes, office support and organising beach clean ups. Finally, they also provide teacher and school resources, for mini marine mammal medics in the making!
Education is an essential element of protecting New Zealand’s marine life and environments. As much as it is a great idea to encourage adults to learn new skills and become involved in the marine world, it is even more essential to allow children to become immersed and excited about it. No matter how much effort we put into saving our oceans, if children do not share our love for them, then the work will not be continued into future generations.
Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR) is a national programme dedicated to providing children with experiential learning about marine conservation. They provide schools and communities with the equipment and expertise for hands on snorkelling trips in local marine environments and fully protected marine reserves. Schools are offered guidance, direction, coordination of classroom exercises and field trips, are provided with all snorkel equipment, instruction, resources and snorkel risk management. Then the lucky students get the exciting and unique chance to snorkel in environments such as dense kelp forests, surrounded by dozens of fascinating new life forms, all whilst having an adult buddy and body board for reassurance. After their unforgettable day out with EMR, children often become passionate about looking after their local marine worlds. They spread the word to their local communities through letter writing to local authorities, presentations at public events and carrying out their own scientific investigations.
EMR has so far provided these incredible experiences for 27834 students with a team of up to 20 coordinators and have engaged no less than 14889 people in organised marine events. You can help EMR continue to raise awareness and involvement in marine conservation by taking up one of their volunteering and internship opportunities. The preferred season for volunteers is from October to mid-December and mid-January to May, and would usually be required for a period of 1 month. Or, if you have a budding young marine biologist in the making in your household, share EMR’s programme with the local school so more children can experience this amazing educational opportunity!
For more information on either of these organisations visit the following websites: