22 Nov

We mourn the loss of Bernd Brederlau, founding member of M.E.E.R.

An obituary from Fabian Ritter

In October 2023, Bernd Brederlau passed away – very surprisingly and much too early. Bernd was one of three in the “core team” M.E.E.R. e.V.´s early days and played a key role in the founding of the association. It is no exaggeration to state that M.E.E.R. would not have existed without Bernd.

Bernd dedicated his life to dolphins like few other people. Having always been enthusiastic about these beings and having experienced a groundbreaking encounter with the solitary dolphin “Jean-Louis” in Brittany, he seized the opportunity in the early 1990s to take over one of the boats (the Viena) on La Gomera, with which the first “dolphin tours” off the island began. He pursued this plan energetically by giving up his previous career as a master landscape gardener without further ado and relocating to the island with his wife, young child and all his belongings – without ever having been there before.
Bernd’s sensitive treatment of dolphins and whales was to be influential in developing the whale watching tourism off the Canary Islands as “gentle whale watching”. He always tried to disturb the marine mammals as little as possible. Hardly anyone had as much sensitivity when steering boats near dolphins and whales as he did.
Bernd was a profound person who always greatly cared about the health of the oceans. He proved that he was always willing to fight for this cause with his great commitment to M.E.E.R. and later with the founding of his own association Atlantic Care. His premise was always: “Dolphins and whales give us so much, we have to give something back.

When I suggested to him in 1995 that I collect the data for my thesis on board the Viena, he didn’t hesitate for long and said yes. Back then we pursued the novel and innovative concept of collecting scientific data on board whale watching boats. None of us knew at the time that this would become an internationally recognised, long-term research project and that the first data we had collected together in September 1995 would lay the foundation for one of the world’s largest sighting databases…

Bernd was great at sensing where to find the marine mammals and how to behave in their company to allow them the utmost freedom. He – and with him the many guests he welcomed on board – were “rewarded” by unmatched and often magical encounters… In this respect, Bernd was an extremely important ambassador for whales and dolphins. Amongst other things, I remember our first encounter with sperm whales, our enchantment at witnessing the behaviour of spotted dolphins and the “discovery” of rough-toothed dolphins off the island. With his observations and surveys, Bernd also contributed to several scientific papers.

The Viena was the best-maintained boat in the harbour at all times. Bernd’s great love for the sea was also reflected in the fact that he always kept his boats in better condition than anyone else. In his later years, when he had long left M.E.E.R. and later also resigned from his job as a skipper on the dolphin trips, he was drawn even further out to the high seas. Together with his wife Juliette, he now also offered long sailing trips in the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands aboard the sailing ship Milagro. It goes without saying that the Milagro always gleamed and was in excellent shape.
Nevertheless, he always remained loyal to La Gomera and stayed there until the end of his life.

Bernd was always open to the magic of the sea, we experienced countless magical moments in the presence of whales and dolphins, and he never lost his playful spirit. Perhaps this was the secret to his success of literally bringing marine mammals close to so many people. I think I can say that the sea was Bernd’s greatest teacher. On the other hand, Bernd was one of the most learned students of the sea and its inhabitants.

When we were completely unexpectedly interviewed by a TV team and the then unknown Sandra Maischberger (see photo) on our first tours together, Bernd made the later legendary comment in response to being asked how dolphins´friendly behaviour could be explained : “That’s… they’re… – that’s just dolphins!” You couldn’t have summed it up any better.

We send our love and condolences to Bernd’s daughters, his family and his wife Juliette.

Bernd, we miss you!

With deep gratitude, and on behalf of the entire team of M.E.E.R. e.V.