Farewell to a whale champion

December 5, 2022

OceanCare is sad to have to report the loss of one of the world’s great whale champions: Mike Donoghue, who was based in New Zealand, passed away a few days ago. Mike was well known to many of us at OceanCare and worked to improve the situation of the world’s whales and dolphins in many different and significant ways over his long career. 

Whale_event_Mike Donoghue
Mike Donoghue

Mike joined the New Zealand Department of Conservation in 1987 leading work there on marine mammal policy, including the efforts that led to the establishment of marine mammal sanctuaries in the Banks Peninsula and the sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands. Internationally, he is probably most well-known for his role at the meetings of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) where, for many years, he was part of the New Zealand delegation acting as their Deputy Commissioner and attending both the Commission meetings (where the member nations meet) and many meetings of the Scientific Committee. In this capacity he advised no less than three New Zealand Commissioners. He has also published some two dozen scientific and policy works, collaborating with many others from all around the world.

More recently he was working on building the collaboration between the IWC and conservation initiatives in the Pacific region, including through the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) where he was the SPREP Threatened and Migratory Species Adviser for six years. He also played a leading role in the important IUCN Task Force on Marine Mammal Protected Areas.

Those of us who knew him well recall that he had great good humour and lots charm and energy. His sense of fun and irreverence helped to carry many of us through sometimes difficult IWC meetings. Mike was a very warm-hearted person. He was liked and respected by people on all sides of the whaling debate and the whales have certainly lost a good friend, but he leaves behind him a magnificent legacy of contributions to whale and dolphin conservation that we are grateful for.

Mike was a youthful 73 when he passed and OceanCare sends condolences to his family and all his other friends. If we wanted to follow an example of a life that was well lived, we would propose Mike’s.