A necropsy of a right whale conducted by New England Aquarium scientists in 2006. Concerns over right whale mortality spurred Bar Harbor filmmaker Jeff Dobbs to begin working on a series of films about ocean issues. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE NEW ENGLAND AQUARIUM

Films to tackle ocean issues, whales up first

BAR HARBOR — Spurred by the relentless bad news in the last year about whales, filmmaker Jeff Dobbs has launched a new initiative for his production company.

“Barely a week went by last summer when we weren’t getting news about yet another dead whale,” he said. The federal government declared an unusual mortality event for the endangered North Atlantic right whale when 17 right whales were found dead in the waters off the U.S. and Canada.

“Then in July, the conservation community was devastated by the loss of Canadian fisherman Joe Howlett in a tragic accident. He was killed by a whale just after having disentangled the animal from fishing gear.”

Film and video offer an unprecedented opportunity to bring the stories to a wider audience, to inform the public and spur people to take action, Dobbs said. And so, Endangered Oceans Films was born.

He hopes to help focus public attention on the dire situation faced by the right whale. At the same time, the problem doesn’t stand alone.

“My production team was already expanding to include researchers and conservationists,” Dobbs said, “and when we put our heads together, it became clear that there are many, many interrelated stories here.”

The group sees film potential in the many aspects of our oceans and the way humans interact with them, including the fisheries, agriculture, energy and tourism.

The first Endangered Oceans Films production, “Saving Giants: Survival of the North Atlantic Right Whale,” is scheduled for release at the end of 2018, and both production and direct fundraising are underway.

“We want to get people’s attention for the sake of the whales,” said Zack Klyver, longtime naturalist for the Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company and a new addition to the Dobbs production team. “We’re producing under the auspices of the Dobbs nonprofit, the Jefferson Davis Grant Foundation, which is a 501c3. Our hope is that we can build critical mass for fundraising and sponsorship to meet our production goals.”

The goal for “Saving Giants” is broad, national distribution into 2019, creating the opportunity for public conversation and giving stakeholders an opportunity to share their perspectives and find common ground.

“Getting that conversation going is the most important thing,” Dobbs said. “The answers to these problems are out there, and they lie somewhere between the fishermen, the biologists, the shipping companies, and all the others whose lives and businesses are tied to the oceans. If we can help pull them together, and get the public involved, we know that together we can find the solutions.”

The production team is grateful to have the involvement of many in the ocean conservation community, including Moe Brown, Heather Pettis, Clay George, Tom Pitchford, Chris Slay and others from the New England Aquarium, the Center for Coastal Studies and NOAA.

Visit endangeredoceansfilms.com.


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