While the footage captured in the clear waters surrounding Reunion Island can make anyone daydream, it should also act as a warning. Swimming with marine mammals, especially whales, is never risk-free. This video reminds us of that.
A video taken recently in the waters of the Reunion Island has quickly spread all over the world. It shows a huge humpback whale trying to push a group of divers away with one of its pectoral fins, deeming them to be too close for comfort.
The whale currently swimming off the coast of the island is well known by scientists and is called Mereva. She is currently travelling through the Indian Ocean, accompanied by her calf. The sight has of course attracted an audience, but has also led to problems.
A group of divers equipped with masks, tubes and flippers was filmed approaching the two whales a little too closely, to the mother’s annoyance. The humpback whale proceeded to gently push away the somewhat intrusive swimmers with her fin.
Mereva was irritated by the tourists who wanted to get a little too close to her calf, probably with the aim of taking a selfie or publishing a story on Instagram.
Broadcast on local TV
On the video shown by the TV channel Réunion 1, Mereva the whale attempts to distance the swimmers with her fin in a gentle attempt to make them realise they are disturbing the calf.
This was a good opportunity for CEDTM (the island's centre for the study of sea turtles) to remind divers of a few rules to follow. Approaching a whale is not risk-free, and a blow from a fin can end up having disastrous consequences.
Marine mammals are innately compassionate and social creatures, as science has proved many times. The whale would have shown her more aggressive side if she had wanted to do so. But Mereva chose a more gentle approach instead to let the swimmers know that they were disturbing both her and her little one.
Anything for a selfie
This video, which has circulated a lot on social media, demonstrates a progressively more worrying trend: people dive near whales to take selfies, with no concern for any security measures and above all without any concern for the consequences that this may have on the peace and the development of the sea mammals.
This irresponsible, disrespectful and unregulated behaviour has been unanimously condemned by environmentalists and scientists. A diver from the Duocéan association, who has rallied for respectful whale-watching, explains what rules he has set for his clients:
‘[There must be] no noise, as these animals are very sensitive to sounds; even a little splash of a flipper on the surface is a no. [There must be only]... inertia and passivity: you don’t hold your hand out, you don’t show any sign of agitation, you show slow and powerful gestures, you stay on the surface. And you present as a clearly-defined group: I ask my clients to hold the hands of the others in the group.’
The whales that live in the waters of the Reunion during this time of year are often females who have just given birth and who are exhausted after a long journey from the cold oceans of the globe. They are therefore looking for rest, peace and calm in order to feed themselves, regain their strength and raise their offspring, who are often still at the suckling stage.