The endangered North Atlantic right whale comes to life in the form of a six-meter “fillable” sculpture.
Project SculptShore was born from an idea by Eveline Hipson and Elizabeth Wile and is a work of art that will be used to help clean up the coast of Nova Scotia this summer and raise awareness of endangered species.
“(It is) a giant 20-foot whale sculpture that we will take to different events and shoreline cleanups and fill with ocean debris and things that may have caused the whale to be trapped,” Wile tells Global News, adding that the sculpture will be modeled after real calf from Snow Cone, a North Atlantic right whale that got tangled in fishing rope last year.
“It has a message, you are helping to create inspiring art, because these whales are in danger for a reason. We are trying to bring information and awareness to the things that are actually solving the problem, ”Wile said, citing a program in the Maritimes that tries to get anglers interested in ropeless fishing gear.
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Hipson and Wile met through the Canadian Conservation Corps, which is a three-phase program with the Canadian Wildlife Federation. Sculpture is part of the third phase of the program, in which participants complete a community initiative. The pair collaborated with local artists Nicole and Bernd Krebes of BernArt Maze in Lunenberg County to create the sculpture, which Wile said was “natural,” as the artists already work with recycled and found material.
“It was pretty cool, actually, that we build the whale. We like to be involved in the project because we are really environmentally conscious, “said Nicole Krebes.
“We’re trying to get as much waste out of the landfill, which is recyclable, and it’s fun to make art out of it.”
The couple called Hawaii sculptor Jarrett Phillips to help with the project, which they have worked with in the past. Phillips said it was an opportunity he simply couldn’t pass up.
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“To come out and, one, use my art to share it with others, but to bring awareness to the Atlantic right whales, and somehow unite the two and put my art to use in future projects,” said Phillips .
The artists started working on the project on Sunday and have been going full steam ahead ever since.
“We started early in the morning, worked 12 to 14 hours a day, every single day, and at this time we also accelerated our sculpting process so that we could do it a little faster and more efficiently.”
The goal is to finish it within a week and be ready for launch within the next month.
Population still extremely low: experts
The first North Atlantic right whale was spotted in Canadian waters last week as the population of around 336 migrated along the coast.
“We had a relatively good year last year in terms of new whale births, and also no deaths in our region, so that’s very good,” said Boris Worm, professor of marine biology at Dalhousie University, adding that the numbers of the population are still “extremely low” and remain the most endangered species in the region, with fewer than 100 breeding females remaining in existence.
The right whale first sighted in Canadian waters in 2022
“And therefore the species is at great risk and any mortality must be avoided to save this species from extinction.”
The two main causes of mortality for the right whale population are entanglement of fishing gear and ship strikes, Worm said, adding that new research shows that vessels of any size can fatally injure whales.
“I think to save this species we really need all the hands on the bridge in our region,” Worm said.
“This doesn’t just include the fishing and shipping sector, it includes everyone. So, coastal cleanups, for example, are of great help. Any type of rope that can be cleaned will help here. Anyone who spots a whale should report it, for example, to the Marine Animal Response Society which tracks where these whales are, so we have all the information we need to keep this whale safe. “
Those behind Project SculptShore are also hoping to be part of the solution.
“We want people to come to our cleaners and feel like they have the power and are making a difference,” Wile said.
“It’s something we need to move forward and start connecting people with this animal to make it a problem we can all solve.”
Wile said the hope is to have the sculpture on the Halifax waterfront by June 1, which is the start of Oceans Week in Halifax.
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