Honk For Whales

The last time I saw much loved artist, musician and activist Howie Cooke from Surfers from Cetaceans (S4C), was on the streets of Panama City when together S4C, W4W, Sea shepherd and many awesome whale loving NGOS literally brought the City to a halt with our International Whale Celebration outside the IWC (International Whale Commission). We lined the streets with fabric banners showcasing coloured hand prints from all around the world, representing international solidarity and support for the South Atlantic Whale sanctuary (which is still being blocked by Japan, Norway and Iceland) We gathered in Howie’s hand painted Whale Tipi an icon which has traveled to hundreds of countries and IWC’s, mobilizing students, surfers, snorkelers, divers, residents, street artists and kids. We joined spokespeople from NGOS wearing whale suits and danced in the streets with loudspeakers…and yes we made it to local and international news. 

All those memories came flooding back as I picked Howie up late one cold Autumn night from the train station in Lagos along the coast of Portugal which is home base for my little family. And true to Howie’s style, by late the next morning (along with a little bit of local activist help from ASMAA) Howie was smiling and shaking the hand of Lagos major (a Woman…of course!!!) with IMMEDIATE permission to paint his mural. Permission like this, especially in Portugal usually takes weeks of paperwork! 

In no time at all, the town had residents honking for whales as they drove by Howie painting one of his jaw dropping murals along a center street. From local paint shop who donated a huge amount of free paint for the cause, to the elderly ladies who came by every afternoon on their walk, everyone was touched… as usual Howie managed to bring the magic of whales to the locals here through his art, whilst at the same time making an outspoken statement about oil platforms and fracking on our coast lines here. 

In only two days, with the help of some awesome vegan food and some well-timed picnics on the beach…our wall was transformed! And the lovely lady major immediately sent permission for Howie to paint the entire road (the wall stretches for over 1000 meters!) A future project and we will keep you in the loop for that one! In the meantime… the next IWC is Brazil 2018! W4W plans to be there together with Howie and S4C and all the amazing Latino NGO’s working for whales…This is an early invitation…join us, be there for the whales!

The International Whale Celebration is a non profit event aimed at raising awareness about the International Whaling Commission's (IWC)’s annual meeting. We utilize the global media spotlight on the subject of whaling whilst providing a platform of unity for international organizations and activists to stand up for cetaceans.


Ingrid Visser is a world-renowned scientist who's study of orcas has notably changed the world's understanding of these beautiful and mysterious beings. She works over-time to help us understand more about orcas and how to protect them. Recently, our co-founder Natalie Fox spent some time with Ingrid, and had a chance to interview her!

Read the interview below!


5 words that best describe you….

Pedantic, tenacious, determined, passionate, obsessed.


What gives you strength?

I think it’s making progress, if I can see that we’re just getting the tiniest bit ahead, in whatever field it is, whether its writing a scientific paper, or fighting the good fight, just a little bit of glimmer of hope gives me strength.


What makes you happy?

Being out with the Orca in the wild.  Definitely! It’s beyond happy, it’s ecstatic when I’m with the animals.




How long have you been working with Orca?

Officially I’ve been working with the Orca since 1997, but unofficially it started when I was about 6 years old!


What makes the Orca so special?

I have never been able to put my finger on it!  There are so many things, it’s almost like they’re an enigma and I’m yet to hear anyone really articulate it.  They’re figuratively and literally very deep animals.


Where are your favourite places in the world to see wild Orca?

1. New Zealand

2. Antarctica

3. Papua New Guinea 

4. Argentina

5. The Pacific North (Russia, BC, Washington State)

6. Norway

7. Iceland


What has been your most incredible encounter with wild Orca?

Too many to count!  I’d say the most incredible has to be involving rescues - whether its disentanglement or strandings, its not about my experience, it’s about managing to help the animal.  To see them go free, to see them return to their family - that’s the most incredible thing.


Can you tell us a little known fact about Orca.

They don’t have eyelids! And there’s a lot of boy on boy action which is normal in the Orca world. It appears that this happens mostly because there is a female mate choice and the females typically choose the older males as they are demonstrating they’re able to survive for a long time - its like the ladies are looking for the Sean Connery’s of the Orca world!  In the meantime there’s all these frustrated young males who want to express themselves sexually, so they hang out together and spend a lot of time together, which is pretty entertaining to watch!!


If you could ask the whales a question, what would it be?

Please teach me to speak Orca, then I could ask lots of questions!


You are an inspiration for women who want to work with whales, do you have any advice for them?

To know that you can do it.  I was told that the only way I could work with whales was at SeaWorld and I knew at 6 years old that that wasn’t the right way to go.  So I would say don’t give up on your dream.  Remain true to yourself, remain true to your dream and you will achieve it.

You’re a long time dead so make the most of every opportunity that presents itself.


What can women do to help cetaceans?

There is nothing that we can’t do! From the smallest thing to the largest, some of the top whale biologists are women and some of the top fundraisers are women.

There is something really simple: Don’t ever buy a ticket to see a cetacean in captivity.

And fundraising is a huge asset. Donations can be the backbone of whether someone can get out and do research.


What can we do in terms of the bigger picture, to help the oceans in general? 

For a start, women often use face scrubs and some of these have microbeads which are actually made of plastic.  These are starting to be outlawed, which is fantastic but they’re still available so make the choice to go for something that is organic instead.

Don’t use plastic bags, they are NASTY for the marine environment.

Choose to use chemicals that are biodegradable.

In the big scheme of things these little things will make the biggest difference.  Individually we are not going to be able to change the world but we can change how we impact the world.