Islanders can help name blue whale

It’s not the kind of pet you can take home, but Islanders will soon have a chance to help name a blue whale living in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.Zack Metcalfe is one of the organizers for a group working towards raising awareness for protecting endangered species and commercial fish species in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.The unique naming contest is just one of the ways the campaign, which is a collaboration between Save Our Seas and Shores and the Sierra Club, hopes to raise that awareness during the next several months.

Metcalfe said that contest is also being run with the Mingan Island Cetacean Study.

“We’re picking a blue whale that they’ve identified that hasn’t been named yet and we’re going to put it to public opinion to toss in their name suggestions,” said Metcalfe during an interview with The Guardian at a “Blue Whale Bash” in Charlottetown Sunday.

The day saw a lobster raffle, live music and local food at the Farm Centre.

There was also a life-sized baby blue whale poster children could colour in and write messages on, as well as displays describing the marine life found in the gulf.

Metcalfe said the focus is not just whales, but all critically endangered species and commercial fisheries in the gulf.

“The blue whale is only our poster boy because it is the largest, most beautiful and one of the most threatened species out there,” he said, and pointed to a recent U.S. study from the University of Vermont. “Whales play an absolutely critical role in fishery ecosystems … they actually create energy in an ecosystem and thus allow for more fish, so they actually increase fish stocks.”

Much of the campaign’s cause is also motivated by opposition towards oil and gas exploration in the gulf.

Seismic testing has already been done in the gulf, while discussions over any future development continue.

Colin Jeffrey, the campaign’s other organizer, said the group wants individuals to start a debate on oil and gas development as well as look at other negative impacts such as increasing runoff pollution, overfishing and marine traffic.

“The idea is to get more information out there about how rich in marine life our gulf is, it’s really a nursery for a lot of our marine species,” said Jeffrey. “A lot of fish species come into the gulf where the waters are calmer and shallow and they lay their eggs there.”

Jeffrey said the group will educate the public on the many species in the gulf until the campaign ends sometime next January. Each week, a different species will be detailed online.

Jeffrey said more information on the campaign is available through links on the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club’s and the Save Our Seas and Shores’ websites.