Friday, 1 April 2016

Writing For Orca: Hello from Suzie!

by Suzie Hall 

Hello - my name is Suzie Hall and I am Orca Aware's new blog writer! 

Like so many, I watched the beloved Free Willy when I was just a few years old and have been completely captivated with orca ever since. I adopted Springer the orca at the age of 11, spent most evenings watching any orca videos and documentaries I could get my hands on, and even emailed SeaWorld when I was ten years old wanting to become a trainer (until I learned about the poor welfare suffered by orca in captivity).

As I grew up, there became a point where I had to try and establish if my love of orca was ‘just a childish phase’ (because, let’s face it, who doesn’t love whales and dolphins as a kid!?), or whether it was built on something more. At University I joined the SCUBA diving society and suddenly my passion for the ocean, marine conservation and orca exploded into life. I am now certain that it’s not just a fad, and I’m confident that I have a long life of orca-related endeavours ahead of me.

Last January, I travelled to Grundarfjörður, Iceland on a three-day orca-watching trip. The area is famous for the huge shoals of herring which visit in the winter months, attracting orca and other cetaceans (whales and dolphins) in their hundreds. Unfortunately, the winter season in 2015 was uncharacteristically lacking in herring, and the fish that often flood the fjords were nowhere to be seen. And neither were the orca. On our third day the boat captain received a call that there were orca right near the tip of the Snæfellsnes peninsula (about 30km away) and we were taken on a huge three-hour round trip in an attempt to find them, but sadly to no avail.

Our orca watching boat with Laki Tours, Grundarfjörður (Photo © Suzie Hall)

It has always been my dream to finally see these magnificent animals in their natural habitat, and what surprised me the most is that I wasn’t disappointed at all that we hadn’t seen them. I was hugely content in the knowledge that the orca were out there swimming, hunting and playing wherever they liked; that was much more important than my own personal experience.

My trip to Iceland has kick-started my drive to learn and do more for orca. At the dive conference last October I met the members from British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) and very quickly the conversation turned towards orca (this happens quite a lot!) and I explained how I want to get involved in any way I can. Now I find myself writing for the BDMLR sponsored campaign, Orca Aware and can’t wait to get started!

Suzie trying on BDMLR's orca costume
I am constantly inspired by the tireless work of orca advocates worldwide, and I hope that one day I too will be able to make a contribution. Why such a strong connection to an animal I have never encountered? In truth, I have no logical answer. It is, admittedly, quite strange and perhaps I’ll never be able to explain it. All I can say is that I know my love for them will drive me to spend my life working to understand, protect and educate the world about these fascinating mammals.

My advice to anyone who loves orca and wants to get involved is simply just to go for it. I don’t have a marine-related degree, I have seen a grand total of four dolphins in my life, and I’m living in a completely landlocked city – but that won’t stop me. There are still a shocking number of orca in captivity, our own resident population in UK waters (the West Coast Community) is in danger of extinction and there is still so much we don’t know about orca worldwide. There is a lot to be done for the protection of this species and so many things that people can do; so get started!

In the meantime, I will look forward to bringing you my take on the latest news and information in my up-and-coming Orca Aware blogs. Thanks for reading and please get in touch if there are any topics you would like me to write about! 

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