“We have a lot of work ahead of us. It’s important that we power ahead and stay true to the whales. They are the future of our oceans and they depend on us.” -Alex Dorer
Here at Eagle Wing, we have the privilege of seeing orcas the way they are meant to be seen—in the wild. But although we have the great pleasure of spending our days with these majestic creatures, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that not all orcas get to live in their natural habitat. Some have never experienced it. Not even for a moment.
According to Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), a global charity dedicated to the conservation and protection of whales and dolphins, there are 54 killer whales in captivity around the world. Since 1961, over 145 killer whales have been taken from the wild and placed into captivity. Of those, 125 are now dead.
Disturbing statistics, but one woman from Texas is helping fight for their freedom.
Alex Dorer is the 25-year-old president and co-founder of Fins and Fluke, a cetacean advocate group dedicated to educating the public about ocean conservation. Although the organization has only been around since 2012, Dorer has already attracted significant attention to the plight of captive whales. Together with Free the Atlanta 11 and GARP, she hosted a protest against a planned beluga import in Atlanta. And most notably, she joined forces with activist Wendy Brunot to have a lone killer whale named Shouka moved from his isolated tank to a more humane habitat with other whales.
Dorer has accomplished more in her 25 years than many twice her age, and we wanted to know more about what drives her passion for whale conservation. Here’s what she had to say:
1. Why do whales matter?
Whales are an important part of ocean ecosystems. The fine balance of our oceans, predators and prey play a crucial part in preserving the environment. Fins and Fluke is dedicated to preserving the ocean and its natural habitat so all species, including whales, can prosper.
2. What’s your ocean conservation/whales story? In other words, how and why did you get started in this field?
My own personal story started with a swim-with-dolphins facility in the Keys. I participated in their program and swam with a dolphin named Jax. Something didn’t sit right with me after that interaction with a captive dolphin. I started researching, saw The Cove and became involved in the anti-captivity movement.
It felt right to defend these incredibly intelligent animals that do not belong in captivity. From there I went on to learn about the southern resident killer whales. I took a life-changing trip to Washington in September of 2012. Seeing those orcas has changed my life for the better. I am dedicated to helping them thrive and I continue to strive to protect these endangered animals from all the threats they face every day.
3. What resources (blogs, books, websites) would you recommend to someone who’s new and interested in this subject matter?
I definitely recommend reading David Kirby’s “Death at SeaWorld.” It’s full of jam-packed information on not only captive killer whales but wild ones also. I also recommend Alexandra Morton’s “Listening to Whales: What the Orcas Have Taught Us.” It’s fascinating and a great read. Other resources I like to use are Ric O’Barry’s dolphin project, Orca Conservancy, and WDC websites. The movie “Salmon Confidential” is a must-watch. All of the above will help someone understand the issues that cetaceans, both wild and captive, face today.
4. What message would you really like to get out there?
There are so many issues facing the whales right now. Pollution, man-made tidal turbines, whale watching boats disturbing the whales (on a side note I am so pleased to find out you are among many in the Pacific Whale Watch Association), capture and the declining stocks of salmon. We have a lot of work ahead of us. It’s important that we power ahead and stay true to the whales. We cannot possibly let them down and continue to harm these families. They are the future of our oceans and they depend on us.
5. Who are some other experts in your field that we can learn more from?
Sam Lipman from Orca Aware in the UK is a fantastic woman. She knows her stuff. I also recommend Alexander Sanchez from a group called Promar-Equinac in Spain. They work with mainly stranded and injured dolphins but he knows his stuff. Lastly, I think including WDC would be fantastic. They are truly an incredibly amazing organization.