Along with so many in the marine animal protection community, AWI is grieving the loss late last year of three outstanding advocates. Each of these professionals played a role in helping to shape the careers of one or more members of AWI’s marine team. We will miss them dearly.
Kenneth Balcomb III, 1940–2022
Kenneth Balcomb III died on December 15, 2022, from prostate cancer, at the age of 82. I first met Ken in the 1980s, when I was a graduate student studying orcas off British Columbia. He was already a legend by then—having initiated, in 1976, a long-term photo-identification project in Washington’s Salish Sea of the southern resident orca population. Three years earlier, Canadian researchers had started a similar project with the northern residents (my study animals). Every year, Ken and other researchers took high-resolution black-and-white photos of the dorsal fin and back of the whales as they swam through coastal summer habitats. Markings on the skin—including pigmentation patterns, scars, and nicks—are unique to each individual and allow scientists to follow the lives of every orca in the Pacific Northwest, from birth to death. Ken was also a fierce advocate for the southern residents, fighting authorities who neglected them. Humans targeted these orcas for aquarium display, polluted their habitat, and caused a catastrophic decline in their primary prey—Chinook salmon—by damming and otherwise damaging the salmon’s spawning rivers. Ken was having none of it and did all he could to keep extinction at bay. Ken was also very involved with protecting whales and dolphins from human-caused noise in the ocean, including from military sonar—work that brought us back into contact after I moved into the marine mammal policy arena. The whales—and the world—have lost a warrior.
Michael Donoghue, 1949–2022
Mike Donoghue, who died on November 29, 2022, following a stroke, was a giant of the Save the Whales movement. In 1978, he contributed to the Frost Inquiry into Whales and Whaling, which brought commercial whaling in Australia to an end. I first met Mike at the 1984 meeting of the International Whaling Commission. He would go on to attend 22 IWC meetings in all, eventually serving as alternate commissioner for New Zealand and head of the country’s scientific delegation. A bit of an epicure, Mike would send reminders to me in advance of a meeting to bring New England maple syrup in exchange for kiwi fruit.
He was always ready with a smile and a colorful turn of phrase. Although born in England, Mike was a proud New Zealander, having moved there in the early 1970s. He joined the New Zealand Department of Conservation in 1987 and was instrumental in developing the country’s marine mammal policy, including plans to manage whale strandings, mitigate marine mammal bycatch, and establish the Banks Peninsula and Auckland Islands marine sanctuaries. Mike later joined the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP) as a threatened and migratory species advisor. While at SPREP, he advised governments on the development of responsible whale-watch tourism and the creation of numerous whale sanctuaries. In 2017, Mike helped organize the milestone Whales in a Changing Ocean conference, which AWI helped support.
Mike’s enthusiasm and kindness were without bound, and he was a mentor and friend to many, including AWI’s marine team. Deeply respectful of Pacific Island cultures, Mike once shared a Maori proverb with me: The ocean gives and sustains life for the worthy. Michael Donoghue was truly among the worthy, and he will be missed.
Donald C. Baur, 1954–2022
Renowned attorney Don Baur passed away on December 15, 2022, at the age of 68 after a tough battle with cancer. Don was a long-time partner in the Environment, Energy and Resources practice at Perkins Coie LLP, and a staunch advocate for animals and the environment. Earlier in his career, Don served as general counsel to the Marine Mammal Commission and as an attorney with the Department of the Interior. Don also taught at Vermont Law School, Golden Gate School of Law, and the Environmental Law Institute.
I had the great privilege of working for Don at Perkins Coie; one of the foremost experts on the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act, he was the person who introduced me to the world of marine animal advocacy. I continued to work with him on a number of marine issues after I moved on to AWI, right up until just before his death. Don was an incredible attorney, with a memory and institutional knowledge that amazed everyone who worked with him. Not only that, but he was a kind and truly good human, wise and even-tempered.
Over the course of his career, Don trained and mentored an untold number of attorneys, and spent countless pro bono hours advocating protection of marine mammals, oceans, national parks, and the environment. He always wanted to know how he could help, right up until his last days. It is because of Don that I know so many good people in the environmental, conservation, and animal law communities. As much as he loved connecting like-minded folks, he also loved bringing together parties who might otherwise be at odds, which is often a much tougher feat.
Our world will never be the same, but his legacy will live on through so many of us.