Feb 15 is World Whale Day! This day of recognition for whales originated 35 years ago in Maui, Hawaii to honor humpback whales, which migrate through the waters off the islands during the winter.

You can celebrate by making a donation to Friends of Animals , as we have been advocating for whales for decades.

Most recently, FoA pushed back against the Trump administration’s unrelenting efforts to vigorously promote energy exploration projects in Alaska that endanger beluga whales, whose populations in Cook Inlet have declined so precipitously that approval of a new gas project could push them to extinction. The project seeks to commercialize natural gas resources in Alaska’s North Slope by converting the natural gas supplied to liquified natural gas for users within Alaska.

In comments filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on its draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Alaska LNG Project, FoA noted that a FERC’s own biological assessment concluded that the project would increase the risk of vessel strikes on Cook Inlet beluga whales, result in underwater noise that would harass the whales and would cause the whales to lose critical habitat.

We also helped fund “A Fall from Freedom,” the first documentary to expose the long and controversial history of the captive whale and dolphin industry and “By All Rights,” a film that boldly makes the case for providing whales and dolphins with legal personhood status, a case that takes into consideration their culture, intelligence and their many similarities to humans. (You can watch the films here)

Such a change in status would allow lawyers to sue on behalf of these autonomous mammals when they suffer harm from such human activities as the use of sonar, captivity and ocean pollution.

“If we took a segment of average Americans and brought them in to hear the arguments for personhood—the moral arguments, legal arguments and biological arguments for personhood for corporations and personhood for whales and dolphins, I really believe that a majority of those people would come out with a strong preference for personhood for the whale and dolphin versus the corporation,” said Michael Harris, director of Friends of Animals’ Wildlife Law Program.

Unfortunately, Japan and Iceland continue to defy the rest of the world and allow commercial whaling. The International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1982 and as a result has saved several species from extinction. IWC does grant special whaling permits for scientific purposes, and Japan and Iceland have been exploiting that loophole.

“With several whale and dolphin species still threatened with extinction, it really is the hallmark of an immoral society to slaughter these remarkably beautiful and intelligent cetaceans without retribution,” said Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals.

Unlike the governments of Japan and Iceland, FoA advocates for the protection of whales as well as whale watching. The IWC recently launched an online handbook to equip anyone who wants to go whale watching with places to go and questions to ask. An estimated $2.1Bn is spent by 13 million people who go whale watching each year. The handbook can be found here.

Check out these fun facts about whales:

Whales belong to order cetaceans. There are 90 different species of cetaceans.

There are two suborders of whales: baleen and toothed.

The world’s largest whale is the  blue whale. It can grow up to 100 feet long and weigh 190 tons.

Recently, scientists and policymakers have begun to understand how the oceans can contribute solutions to climate change. As some of the largest species on the planet, whales can make a significant contribution. Whales sequester significant amounts of carbon throughout their lives via feeding, while their waste also fertilizes phytoplankton, tiny oceanic plants, that store carbon and produce oxygen. Upon their deaths, they continue to store this carbon and support organisms on the seabed.