Conservation International documentary ‘Whales in a Changing Ocean’ wins award

April 19, 2021

Aotearoa, New Zealand (20 April 2021) – Richard Sidey has just received the Director's Award from the International Ocean Film Festival (IOFF) 2021 for his documentary, “Whales in a Changing Ocean.” The film, produced by Conservation International, follows the NGO's study on the ecology of humpback whales in the Antarctic aboard a PONANT ship.

With perfect weather and curious whales, the expert wildlife filmmaker documented the expedition and captured rare, jaw-dropping footage. In an emotional once-in-a-lifetime experience, the animals were said to 'mug' the scientists, blocking the research team's movement for hours and ironically investigating the researchers' own presence.

“Over the years documenting Antarctica with my camera, nothing has been more evident than this constant change. It’s not only evident with the changes in ocean temperatures, weather patterns, ice volumes, and wildlife populations. But also in tourism, which has increased tremendously. Another noticeable and increasingly evident change in this period has been the recovery of humpback whales on this peninsula after industrial whales almost wiped them out,” said Richard Sidey in the narration.

Sidey is a New Zealand-based director, is a nature enthusiast and has won numerous awards for his Speechless trilogy, the final chapter “Elementa” having been released last year to critical acclaim.

Whales in a Changing Ocean” will be shown in San Francisco at the 18th IOFF, an international festival of independent ocean-related films which runs from 15 April to 2 May 2021. Find out more about IOFF.

Humpback whale research 

In February 2020, a Conservation International research team of six scientists spent three weeks on PONANT'S ship, L'Austral. With the assistance of the ship's captain and PONANT's naturalist guides, their mission to gather and analyze information on the distribution, genetics, and acoustics of whales was very successful, with a total of 60 whales identified and 16 hours of underwater recordings registered.

The purpose of the study was to gain a better understanding of how the sounds of whales, whose feeding habits play a unique role in the food chain, interact with the sounds of ice and ships. As an indicator species, the study also aims to better understand the impact of the record increase in Antarctica's melting ice on humpback whales and, more generally, on our oceans' health.

"This innovative polar science partnership model is based on international collaboration and will support tourism best practices in this unique and sensitive Antarctic ecosystem. Protection of Antarctica is critical for the adaptation of marine life to climate change and the resource on which polar tourism relies. Our work aims to support the creation of essential marine protected areas in Antarctica, to support the long-term conservation and management of the polar seas," said Olive Andrews, Conservation International's lead marine scientist and Antarctic expedition leader.

This research mission complements broader ongoing research in the Pacific Islands. Andrews noted that "by understanding whale ecology across their entire migration area, we can better understand how the whales are faring and consider conservation solutions. In the Pacific, the ocean underpins the way of life. Whales are an indicator of the ocean's health. Protecting whales helps to protect Pacific Islanders' wellbeing, and more broadly the polar seas upon which we all depend."

Watch the trailer for “Whales in a Changing Ocean” HERE.

Find videos and photographs of the project HERE. Editors please credit as noted.


Contact Emmeline Johansen, Asia-Pacific Communications Director:, +64-277-793-401

About Conservation International

Conservation International works to protect the critical benefits that nature provides to people. Through science, partnerships and fieldwork, Conservation International is driving innovation and investments in nature-based solutions to the climate crisis, supporting protections for critical habitats, and fostering economic development that is grounded in the conservation of nature.  We work in 30 countries around the world, empowering societies at all levels to create a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable planet. Follow Conservation International's work on Conservation NewsFacebookTwitter, Instagram and YouTube.

About PONANT Foundation and Conservation International

This mission to preserve humpback whales in the Antarctic is part of a wider-ranging partnership between the PONANT Foundation and Conservation International. Their shared goal is to protect biodiversity and raise awareness of its importance. The other actions being taken in parallel are: to help protect coral reefs in New Caledonia and reforestation in the Amazon.