Local K-6 Graders Inspire Global Shipping Companies to Protect Whales

July 13, 2022

Students at Orchard School in Aptos, CA, caught the attention of executives at the largest shipping company in the world–Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC). Their message? “Thank you for slowing your ships.” In April 2022, Greater Farallones Association presented to a school-wide assembly with K-6th grade students at Orchard School on nature-based solutions to climate change. We highlighted the importance of the role whales play in the carbon cycle and talked about our efforts alongside Greater Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries to reduce the risk of ship strikes to endangered whales through voluntary vessel speed reduction initiatives.

After learning about shipping companies reducing their cargo vessels’ speeds to protect whales in NOAA’s Protecting Blue Whales and Blue Skies Program, the Orchard School students created and mailed whale postcards to the top performing companies in the program to say “thank you for slowing down.” All of the company representatives were grateful for the messages from the students, and the top performing shipping line, Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), replied to Program partners to say that the students’ messages were headlined in their global internal newsletter and that they “captured the imaginations of everyone at MSC, all the way to Geneva headquarters.” MSC was so inspired by the students’ postcards of gratitude that they decided to donate back a $50,000 financial award they had qualified for and received from the Program for reduced speeds in the 2021 season. MSC, alongside 23 other global shipping lines, has re-enrolled in the Program in 2022. The 2022 program season runs from May 1 through December 15 in the San Francisco and southern California regions.

This inspiring outcome shows that youth education opportunities like these not only increase awareness of ocean conservation and climate change topics, they can lead to real change.

Orchard School whale conservation event-2

(Photo credit: Sara Hutto, GFA)