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Bridging the gap between the science of whales and policies that protect them

 Juan Bacigalupi, Regina Asmutis-Silvia’s Policy Intern, reflects on his first week with WDC …

After a week working as a policy intern for WDC, I have quickly learned to appreciate the dynamic nature of the job. Each time I come into the office it seems I am presented with something new. My second day at WDC I attended an aquaculture workshop with Regina at Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies (“PCCS”), which focused on reducing the risk of entanglement to whales and turtles. Yesterday I accompanied Regina and Monica into the field to respond to a report of a dead Atlantic White-Sided Dolphin and dead harbor seal. In between I have found myself immersed in a vast sea of documents about whale and dolphin policy.

Being the first policy intern for WDC is itself a unique and interesting experience. While many of the other interns I am surrounded by have spent their time sorting through fluke photos or going out on boats, I have worked from the office on the policies that surround whales and dolphins. The symbiosis that is created by such a working environment is essential for WDC’s mission of eliminating the continuing threats to cetaceans and their habitats. The field work being done by my fellow interns supports policy decisions and legislative decisions that can be crucial in the survival of critically endangered cetacean species such as the North Atlantic right whale. Similarly, the policy work creates protections that will hopefully ensure that the whales will always be there for everyone, including future WDC interns, to enjoy.

Although perhaps not fast paced in the same sense as trying to keep track of different whales during a sighting, the policy work is fast paced in its own sense. For example, last week I also sat in on a conference call about ship strike problems off the coast of Sri Lanka. While the problem developing in that region is very serious, the conference call was a key preliminary step towards a solution as it served as an informational exchange between multiple parties that are passionate about finding a solution to the problem. My hope is that over the course of the summer I can further develop policy approaches to better understand the full extent of the risk to whales, and hopefully reduce them so that future generations may enjoy the same charismatic mega fauna that I have come to love.

The one week I have interned at WDC has already proved to be an invaluable experience for my professional development as a future advocate for marine wildlife. Working for an organization that uses science, education, litigation, and advocacy to protect and preserve marine mammals on an international scale is exactly the type of job I would have dreamed of when I started law school two years ago. I am excited to spend the rest of the summer bridging the gap between the science of whales, and the policies that will protect them.

Earlier this month, Juan joined our team after he completed his second year at Lewis & Clark Law School.  Juan plans to utilize his education and experiences to advocate to protect the marine wildlife he adores.

About Regina Asmutis-silvia

Executive director - WDC North America