Artwork > Oceana

“Cajun’s Calf (In Memoriam)”
“Cajun’s Calf (In Memoriam)”
Acrylic on poplar
37” x 11 1/2” x 3/4”

Entanglement in fishing gear and boat tackle is one of the biggest dangers to marine life, with dire consequences for whales on Stellwagen Bank.

In 2017 naturalists and scientists joyfully observed Cajun the humpback whale her calf, born during winter in the West Indies. From my Boston whale watch vessels I watched this calf grow from mother's milk, breach with youthful earnest, and even play with the calf of Jabiru.

At year's end she was due for a cyclic migration to the mating grounds of Silver Bank, and I anticipated the decades she would rear her own calves.

Cajun's Calf was found dead off the coast of Georgia in 2018. In her first solo migration she became wrapped in rope that she was unable to shed, and she eventually died from a slow, agonizing fate. White sharks dutifully fed on her carcass, serving as undertakers to return her nutrients to the sea.

Rope has long been a valuable tool for mariners in securing vessels and for hoisting fishing gear from the sea. When whales encounter these foreign fibers they panic and thus wrap their flippers and appendages in a panicked frenzy. The blue and green dye of most marine rope is camouflaged with the sea, undetectable by the monochromatic vision of baleen whales.

Over half of the humpback whales in the Gulf of Maine have suffered entanglement, as indicated by scar tissue along their tailstocks. Cajun's calf is collateral to outdated fishing and maritime practices. She joins Cardhu, Spinnaker, & a littany of other whales whose loss needs to provoke change in resource management and the seafood industry.

Disentanglement teams rescue whales worldwide but their heroic efforts are limited by funding, sea conditions, and entanglements that go undetected. Support is needed for fishermen to utilize airbag deployment and other expensive technology that operates sans rope. Consumers need to know how their food is sourced, and to consider the environment when choosing civic leaders.

This sculpture is my closure for a whale lost to industry. As an artist, I dutifully portray both triumphs and tragedies. As a naturalist, I owe a debt, to advocate for life that has enriched my existence.