N.L. whale-saving group wins funding

Ashley
Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Whale Release and Strandings Newfoundland and Lab-rador has been given a donation of $25,000 by Shell Canada.

The group was one of 54 organizations selected by online voters to receive a total $1 million in funding from the oil company’s “Fuelling Change” program, supporting environmental organizations operating in Canada.

Whale Release and Strandings has been a non-profit group since 2001, developing from the release activities of the Canadian Coast Guard and Memorial University of Newfoundland’s Whale Research Group. A history of the group is available at: www.newfoundlandwhales.net.

The latest donation is not the first it has received from Shell Canada. Whale Release and Strandings’ Julie Huntington told The Telegram the organization was previously able to buy a boat engine thanks to being selected for a donation from Shell.

“(Shell Canada has) been giving out grants for many years. But you used to apply for them and they used to select them,” she said.

This year, an online voting system was set up instead of donation recipients being selected in-house by Shell.

The problem is, votes were on a token-type system. Votes were handed out in lots — 10 for signing up on the program’s website. More could be earned by entering promotional codes from Shell station receipts.

With no Shell stations on the island, Huntington said she did not expect the Newfoundland and Labrador-based organization to win the vote.

“We let people know and then somehow ... we were sort of static and then it got a life of its own,” she said. “People started voting for us.”

She said everyone working with the organization is thankful for the support.

“As we near the end of our centennial year in Canada, we wanted to mark this occasion by recognizing those Canadian environmental projects that are making a difference,” stated Shell Canada president Lorraine Mitchelmore, in an announcement on this year’s “Fuelling Change” funding.

“We know that finding solutions to today’s environmental challenges requires the commitment of all Canadians, and today, our customers have spoken.”

The work of Whale Release and Strandings is funded in part by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, supplemented by some private and corporate donations.

In its day to day operations, the group typically receives a few calls per month (at 1-888-895-3003) for assistance with entangled marine wildlife, including whales, basking sharks and leatherback sea turtles. In addition to rescue calls, it conducts education sessions at schools and with local fishermen on the topic of safe disentanglement of marine animals from, for example, fishing nets.

The group was part of the first Whale Festival, organized with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Parks Canada, held in late-June 2011.

The $25,000 from Shell will go towards the purchase of a new boat, trailer and safety equipment for Whale Release and Strandings.

“It’s a good Christmas gift,” Huntington said. “It also shows that people are interested in whales and interested in making sure that they’re protected.”

afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Shell Canada, Release and Strandings Newfoundland and Lab, Canadian Coast Guard Memorial University of Newfoundland Whale Research Group Department of Fisheries and Oceans Parks Canada

Geographic location: Canada.Whale Release, Canada

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