Right Whale Festival Showcases Youth Activism

Families from across the region celebrated the North Atlantic right whale at the New England Aquarium

At the Right Whale Festival, Michelle Gu (center) wrote a postcard featuring her artwork that won the Healthy Whale, Healthy Ocean Challenge for Middle School Art to her representative encouraging support for the SAVE Right Whales Act. All photos: Alex Nendza

The North Atlantic right whale is on the brink of extinction, but there’s still hope for it to survive. We’re committed to an all-hands-on-deck approach to saving New England’s iconic whale – from litigation to legislation to community engagement.

As part of those efforts, we were thrilled to co-host the 2019 Right Whale Festival at the New England Aquarium with the Aquarium and Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs. This year’s festival was all about youth activism and included an award ceremony for winners of CLF’s and Bow Seat’s Healthy Whale, Healthy Ocean Challenge. The Challenge invited K–12 students from New England as well as the Gulf of Maine region in the U.S. and Canada to use their creative voices to highlight the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale and the need for conservation of marine habitats and resources.

The Right Whale Festival began with hands-on activities.

The Right Whale Festival kicked off with interactive displays and activities from groups from across New England, including writing postcards to Congress to support the SAVE Right Whales Act. Entanglement in fishing gear is one of the biggest threats to right whales, and the federal act, if passed, would provide funding for new gear that’s safer for whales. The art featured on the postcards came from Healthy Whale, Healthy Ocean participants.

Postcard station
Families wrote postcards to their Representatives in Congress, urging them to support the SAVE Right Whales Act.

A highlight of the festival was The Calvineers, who traveled from Castine, Maine, with their science teacher, Bill McWeeny. He’s been teaching his middle school students about right whales – and guiding them through public activism and scientific study – for over a decade. The Calvineers gave short presentations about the whale that gave the group its name, including a song they wrote and performed with ukulele accompaniment.

The Calvineers’ performance and presentations were a highlight of the festival.

We also premiered our short documentary, The Whale at Scale, which features the people who are using the power of the law, science, and photography to save the right whale.

The premiere of our short documentary, The Whale at Scale.

A panel discussion featured a diverse range of voices, including:

  • CLF Senior Attorney Erica Fuller, who is leading our legal work to save the right whale;
  • Marianna Hagbloom, a Research Assistant with the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life’s Right Whale Research Program;
  • Isabella Ceresia, a junior at Holliston High School and member of the Aquarium’s ClimaTeens and live blue™ Ambassadors programs; and
  • Emily Adams, a senior at Falmouth High School and Gold Award winner in Art in the Healthy Whale, Healthy Ocean Challenge.

Brian Skerry, National Geographic photojournalist and the Aquarium’s Explorer-in-Residence, moderated the panel.

CLF Senior Attorney Erica Fuller spoke on the panel discussion.

The event was capped off by a ceremony in which Alyssa Irizarry, Executive Director of Bow Seat, awarded the winners of the Healthy Whale, Healthy Ocean Challenge alongside CLF President Brad Campbell, Bow Seat Founder Linda Cabot, and Brian Skerry.

Award ceremony
Evie Herrick accepted her K-3 Bronze Award in Art.

Thank you to everyone who attended the event, and, especially the students who used talent to create beautiful artwork, poetry, and videos about right whales. The art created through this contest has the power to engage the public, raising awareness and driving action. It’s an essential element of our ongoing advocacy to save the right whale.

You can help take action by calling on your representatives to take up and pass the SAVE Right Whales Act.

Before you go... CLF is working every day to create real, systemic change for New England’s environment. And we can’t solve these big problems without people like you. Will you be a part of this movement by considering a contribution today? If everyone reading our blog gave just $10, we’d have enough money to fund our legal teams for the next year.