Although she freely admits that she is not a scientist, somehow Katherina Audley had felt for a long time that her destiny lay in the need to preserve the whales and habitats of birds and other wildlife in the Zihuatanejo-area village of Barra de Potosí.
And so, Whales of Guerrero, the organization she eventually founded to do that, feels like a dream come true, she says.
In recent years in Barra de Potosí, fishing has become sparse, and locals were struggling to earn a living from their depleted resources. The Whales of Guerrero project, in part, increases awareness and education through scientific research. It also brings revenue to the region through numerous ecological and environmental programs that employ locals.
In the organization’s own words, “This project aims to inspire and empower local leaders to create thriving communities and kickstart conservation in Guerrero, Mexico.”
Whales of Guerrero provides local fishermen with the means to support themselves through whalewatching tours on the ocean and kayak tours through the lagoon. To date, a core group of 40 safe whalewatching guides monitor and create a culture for new guides. The result is that Guerrero maintains a reputation for safe whalewatching in the region.
Whale watching tourism in the village also means that members of the community can sell arts and crafts to the increasingly growing number of tourists. Locals offering cooking classes, Airbnb experiences, field trips and expeditions with students and nature enthusiasts have contributed to improved economic conditions for residents, not to mention pride in themselves and the project they represent.
An annual fundraising project Audley organized last year for Whales of Guerrero was one of Zihuatanejo events to be at, taking place at the exclusive Thompson Hotel. The elegant dinner and concert featured Gabriela Quintero, half of the Grammy-winning duo Rodrigo Y Gabriela.
Special guests, including Ali Tod from Scotland (who Rodrigo and Gabriela met while on tour in the U.K.), local guitarist Pablo Araujo, vocalist Tita Bravo, and Gabriela’s nephew Carlos on bass rounded out the ensemble for a riveting performance. The next day the concert was repeated free of charge on the beach at Barra de Potosí for locals and visitors, with villagers showcasing their wares of arts and crafts to the public.
Although the Whales of Guerrero fundraiser is happening again this year on March 11, and is again a concert, due to Covid-19 it will feature exclusive online performances by Rodrigo y Gabriela, as well as the online world premiere of Music for the Animals by Gabriela Quintero.
According to the event’s Facebook page, “We promise you a night of beauty and inspiration and hope you will all join us to help raise funds to keep our programs strong, and to celebrate our community and all the good we have accomplished together.”
This year’s event aims to raise US $10,000 to keep whales safe, communities united and oceans healthy in Mexico and worldwide. Donations will be tax-deductible.
The cost is just US $20, which gets visitors into an online performance with both Rodrigo y Gabriela this time, and 90 minutes of beauty and inspiration. You can visit their event site to purchase tickets in advance, which are limited, or if you prefer, you can simply make a donation to Whales of Guerrero to protect ocean health.
The writer divides her time between Canada and Zihuatanejo.