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Whaling in Bequia


Bequia is my favourite Grenadine island. I have been visiting this island virtually every week for 20 years to conduct my Friday clinics. In my experience, the people of Bequia are some of the most friendly and easy- going people I have ever come across.

I have personally met the legendary whaler, Athneal Ollivierre, who was a larger than life figure on Bequia. I have admired the massive whale bones in some restaurants and private homes that attest to the great whaling history of that tiny Grenadine island.{{more}}

I remember the glorious weekends I spent with my old friend Tom Johnston of Moonhole, in rustic, but comfortable accommodations that were made of stone; one in particular with a great big tree in the centre of the house, with the building actually built around it. I remember the exciting games of chess that we played together. I distinctly remember Tom telling me how from his house at the top of Moon Hole, he would be the first to spot a whale on most occasions. Indeed, it was a fantastic lookout.

Those were the days when killing a whale was an event that spread like wildfire around the island and within a few minutes, boats of all shapes and forms would be seen heading out to the Whale Cay (Semplers Cay) to partake of the catch, the atmosphere was always festive. On numerous occasions, my good friends would send me whale meat after a whale was caught.

Once, on one of my trips to Bequia, I was lucky to see a massive whale, just lazily riding the waves about 100 feet away from the ferry. It was a magnificent sight to behold. I could distinctively see its dark eyes fixed on the vessel as we passed by.

One Friday, when I visited Bequia, it was a different atmosphere. One of the first things I was asked as soon as I stepped off the ferry was if I had seen the whale that they were chasing around the harbour. I really hadn’t heard anything of it. The person, in a strangely hushed voice, glancing furtively around, as if to see if anyone was overhearing what was about to be said, narrated to me how the day before, the whalers were after a massive whale and had managed to harpoon it, but unfortunately, had to cut the rope attached to the boat, as it was in danger of sinking. I was told that there was another whale that was pursued through the harbour, virtually between the yachts that were anchored there that Friday and that the whale had suffered the same fate, cut loose with a harpoon embedded in its body. The fate of those two whales undoubtedly will be a slow and painful death, after maybe 50 years of roaming carelessly, for thousands of miles in the vast oceans.

I was surprised that no fewer than five different persons on Bequia voiced their discontent with the whaling. This is a tremendous paradigm shift from 15 to 20 years ago, when it would be taboo just to whisper anything against that age-old tradition.

You see, Bequia is nearly wholly dependent on tourism. During the off-season, businesses virtually go into hibernation. With the onset of the tourist season, which lasts for about five months of the year, Bequia is a hub of activity and there seems to be a school of thought now in Bequia that maybe, just maybe, the time has come to turn to whale watching as a major tourism product for the island.

For further information, contact: Dr Collin Boyle
Unique Animal Care Co Ltd Tel: 456-4981