Whales are notoriously difficult to buy for. They look terrible in sweaters, they have no use for a jar of homemade jam, and the latest gadgets don’t work under the sea. So, what do you get a whale (or whale-friendly human) that has everything?

An eco-friendly gift that keeps on giving, of course.

Here are our top seven whale-friendly holiday gift ideas for 2020.

Photo by Brendon Bissonnette / Eagle Wing Tours
  1. Become a Center for Whale Research member

The Center for Whale Research (CWR) is an internationally recognized pioneer in marine mammal photo identification and research. Based in Washington State’s San Juan Islands near Victoria, they’re dedicated to the study and conservation of the critically endangered southern resident killer whale (orca) population in the Pacific Northwest.

Your support makes their important work possible. When you become a member of this great organization, you’ll receive access to:

  • Downloadable resident and transient (Bigg’s) ID guides
  • WHALE Report newsletter, which includes population updates, field reports, exclusive videos, free photo downloads, and more
  • Email notifications of the most recent encounters

Plus, you’ll get that warm fuzzy feeling that comes with knowing you’ve made a direct contribution to killer whale conservation, education and advocacy!

Photo by Valerie Shore / Eagle Wing Tours

2. Support marine mammal rescue

Okay, this is not whale-focused. But we just can’t help ourselves. Every year, the Ocean Wise Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, Canada’s only dedicated marine mammal rescue facility, rescues more than 100 wild marine mammals in distress and rehabilitates them for release back into their natural habitat. Patients include seals, sea lions and small cetaceans such as harbour porpoise.

Perhaps the most famous rescue in 2020 was Joey the orphaned sea otter pup, who has captured hearts around the world for being “criminally adorable.” Caring for Joey and the other animals is rewarding but expensive work. They need your help, especially as funding is squeezed due to COVID-19. Find out how you or a loved one can “adopt” Joey, or a seal or make a general donation to this very worthy cause!

(And if you want to know what is meant by “criminally adorable” check out the live Joey Cam!)

  1. Sponsor a sign, or a humpback whale

Support research, education and wildlife response with the Marine Education and Research Society (MERS). Sponsor a “See a Blow? Go Slow!” sign in the name of your favourite family member or friend who already has everything.

You can also sponsor a humpback whale if that’s more up your alley, which includes a card with a photo, USB stick with biography, photos and humpback sounds recorded in the area, and an update on your sponsored whale within the year.

Prefer a gift you can wrap up? Check out their online shop for some unique, locally made treasures for the ocean-lover in your life. Look for their whale-themed face masks, available by donation to MERS. Get yours early because stocks are limited. Contributions directly support research, education and marine wildlife response activities!

  1. Contribute to ocean research and conservation

Killer whales in BC are listed as either endangered or threatened under Canada’s Species at Risk Act. Learning everything we can about them is an essential first step to putting the best measures in place to protect them.

Ocean Wise is currently revamping its 25-year-old whale adoption program, which funds research on wild whales. More on that in the new year. In the meantime, you can make a direct donation to Ocean Wise’s Marine Mammal Research Program in support of conservation research. Find out more here about their many research activities.

Help the oceans worldwide by supporting the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Make a donation in someone’s name (perfect to put in a card or a stocking!), shop Sea Shepherd gear, or contact your local chapter and become a volunteer! Your contribution helps to support campaigns including:

  • Protecting wild salmon (BC, Canada)
  • Patrolling the endangered vaquita refuge (Mexico)
  • Defending sea turtles (Nicaragua)
  • Funding beaked whale research (Guadalupe)
  • Helping with the conservation of the Galapagos
  • Hurricane relief (Bahamas)
Photo by Valerie Shore / Eagle Wing Tours
  1. Give the gift of an Eagle Wing experience!

Don’t know what to get for that family member or friend who has everything? Don’t worry, Eagle Wing gift certificates are available and easy to purchase online. With an abundance of whales and a variety of wildlife, framed by the breathtaking scenery of the Salish Sea, every trip is an adventure. Come and explore the Salish Sea with us!

  1. Hit the books

Sure, whales can’t read, but you and any whale-a-holics on your gift list can! Catch up on the latest in whale lit (a very special genre!) with the following 2020 titles.

  • Spirits of the Coast: Orcas in Science, Art and History, edited by Martha Black, Lorne Hammond and Gavin Hanke with Nikki Sanchez. This beautiful book brings together the work of marine biologists, Indigenous knowledge-keepers, poets, artists and storytellers, united in their enchantment with killer whales. Order here
  • Orcas of the Salish Sea by writer, filmmaker and killer whale activist Mark Leiren-Young. This engaging picture book introduces young readers to the members of J-pod, part of the endangered population of killer whales that frequents the Salish Sea. It includes many spectacular photos, including a few from Eagle Wing’s talented photographers! Order here
  • The Spirit of Springer: The Real-Life Rescue of an Orphaned Orca by Amanda Abler. This picture book tells the remarkable real-life rescue of an orphaned killer whale calf whose story captured the hearts of whale lovers around the world. Order here
  • Big Whales, Small World by writer, filmmaker and orca activist Mark Leiren-Young. This illustrated board book introduces young readers to whales around the world—from blue whales bigger than dinosaurs to Mexico’s tiny vaquitas who swim close to shore! Order here

And although the following book isn’t specifically whale-related we can’t resist including it on our list because it hits all the right boxes for teaching kids (and their parents!) about the interconnectivity of life and how small actions CAN make a difference!

  • What Matters by Alison Hughes. This delightful picture book for preschoolers sensitively explores nature’s connections and traces the environmental ripple effects of one child’s good deed. Order here
Photo by Valerie Shore / Eagle Wing Tours
  1. Bonus ideas for Greater Victoria locals

What do you get for the art lover and nature buff in your life? What about a print from the Bateman Foundation Gallery of Nature? There are some amazing local artists represented and the has a variety of gifts for all ages, some of them available through their online shop! Tickets to the Gallery are always appreciated!

The Soap Exchange is not just cleaning products! Shop online for some beautiful locally made soaps, hand creams and lip balms, and while you’re there check out their line of refillable, eco-friendly cleaning products (we use them at Eagle Wing Tours!).

Visit the Royal BC Museum Gift Shop for some BC-themed mementos or some fun and educational toys for the kids. Look for whale and ocean-themed items! The museum’s Book Shop also has a vast selection of gifts for that history and nature enthusiast on your list (yes, including whale books!). Proceeds from the sale of merchandise go directly to supporting museum programs!

You can donate to or become a member of the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea in Sidney. The centre also has a wonderful gift shop with plenty of ideas for kids and grown-ups alike. There’s currently no online option for the gift shop but it is open for in-person shopping, with COVID-19 measures in place. Pick up a yearly pass (as a gift or treat yourself!) while you’re there!

Happy Holidays everyone! And remember: Be safe. Be kind. Have fun!