One of the US’ oldest and most-watched newsmagazines on television, CBS 60 Minutes has featured sperm whales of Dominica and efforts to create a safe sanctuary in the island’s waters for them.
The segment, entitled “The Sperm Whales of Dominica” was aired on Sunday with new correspondent, Cecilia Vega, and her crew documenting the massive creatures just off the coast of the island.
She did this with assistance from National Geographic Explorer Enric Sala, who is presently working with the government to create a sanctuary to keep the whales safe.
“The sperm whale population has been declining steadily for the last 20 years because of human threats that affect the whales not only here, in Dominica, but all around the world,” Sala said to Vega, according to CBS. Vega described her experience to 60 Minutes Overtime on how she felt when she encountered the whales. “Once you see that whale, it’s a little like SEAL Team Six,” she said. “You’re jumping off the back of a moving boat. 8,000-feet-deep water. And you’re swimming up. And then suddenly, she’s right there. And she is making eye contact with us.”
She stated that the experience was “otherworldly.”
“It was both the most terrifying professional experience I think I’ve had, and probably the most gratifying and rewarding one,” Vega said, according to 60 Minutes Overtime.
According to the show, in Dominica scientists estimate the sperm whale population declines by 3% each year and Sala thinks they need to be protected from their greatest threats such as plastic trash, ocean noise pollution, and ship strikes.
“If nothing is done, the population will continue to decline,” he said during the segment. “So reducing those threats, hopefully, will allow the whale population to rebound and the more whales there are, the more benefits Dominica and the local communities will obtain.”
Sala said that if nothing is done, the population of the whales will continue to decline.
Vega also conducted an interview with Francine Baron, head of the Climate Resilience Execution Agency for Dominica (CREAD), which was tasked to lead Dominica’s recovery after Hurricane Maria.
According to Baron, Dominica sees whale-watching as an important part of its tourism product, and it’s something that needs to be protected.
“And the idea of creating greater protection for the whales is something that Dominica is very open to. And we were very pleased with the suggestion that Enric made to creating a recognized sanctuary for the whales,” she said.
Sala described being in the water with the whales as “magical.”
‘”Being in the water with sperm whales is a magical experience, there’s something spiritual there, this is more than science and data,” he said. “The sense of awe and wonder that is unavoidable when you are in the water with these gentle giants.”
See the full segment of the show below: