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lundi 31 mars 2014

Symbol of the beauty of the world

Wonderful humpback whales of French Polynesia

Every year from June to November, humpback whales come and stay always in Polynesian waters, became a sanctuary.

It’s nice at Tahiti this morning. A lively and fresh East wind raises a short but violent swell on the Pacific. However, it must not prevent us from boarding with Michel Fayadat for a few hours of pure happiness to meet the humpback whales…

A moment of intense emotion and unique between Tahiti and Moorea
The meeting with cetaceans is a unique moment of intense emotion really indescribable.

Today, we have the pleasure of watching the frolics of a mother and its little, and of a male looking for a mate (very rare). A little later, we cross the track of another whale with its offspring…

Humpback whales in French Polynesia
 Every year since immemorial time, humpback whales take refuge in Polynesian waters to give birth their newborn, away from the cold night of Antarctic waters.

Thus, from June to November, it’s possible to contemplate these amazing mammals close to coral reefs. If the Marquesas is the only one archipelago to be neglected by the whales, it’s doable on the other four. However, curiously, the most frequented zone by cetaceans surrounds the sister islands of Tahiti and Moorea: i.e. one that is the most populated and where boats of all kinds are circulating.

The humpback whale is an animal that doesn’t easily change its habits. Every year, it used to return in those waters where it was born to give birth to its own pups and to allow them to grow and firm up before returning to feed close to Antarctica. And it will itself come back tirelessly to the same place every year throughout its long life of whale.

A whale and its calf between Tahiti and Moorea
The number of whales, having elected the French Polynesia as resort is currently estimated to a thousand.

The reasons for the migration of humpback whales
The humpback whales live mainly in the frigid waters of the Austral Ocean because they find their food here: the krill.

Krill (Euphasia superba) is a small coldwater shrimp which is the staple diet of our whales. For the record, we should know that to grow a kilo, our cetacean must swallow hundred pounds of its favorite shrimp!

When the Antarctic area enters its long dark period, krill density decreases considerably and is no more enough to satisfy its appetite.

The tiny krill, the staple food of humpback whales
Therefore, it joins the warmer waters of the South Pacific where its energy expenditure is much less important.

It enjoys travel to give birth to pups it wears for a long gestation of eleven and a half months, and when it’s time for it to do, to conceive another…

During the four or five months when it’s staying in the warm waters, the humpback whales are feeding virtually.

Protect whales: a huge challenge
It was only since 13 May 2002 the Polynesian Assembly voted this resolution, making Polynesian waters a sanctuary for humpback whales and other marine mammals.

This essential point of the “Environnement Code in French Polynesia” (art. 121-3 A) although salutary, turns out, unfortunately, very difficult to enforce.

French Polynesia, a territory comprising one hundred eighteen islands, is the largest exclusive economic maritime zone in the region. It’s monitored by the sovereign powers of the French State, but without neither real political will nor means necessary to carry out.  

Will Polynesia remain a sanctuary for whales?...
This is known to all: number of protected sea animals, whales or sharks, continues to fill the holds of ships (Chinese and Japanese mostly). In breach of the law, they used to come into Polynesian waters, fishing protected species. Local authorities don’t have the absolute means of enforcing the law.

Besides the pollution problems also concern Polynesia and elsewhere, and perhaps even more given the fragility of islands ecosystem, the other major threat about the humpback whales is the interest they generate, both among local people and tourists. Sometimes these may have to pay a very high price for the right to get close to the whales.

The outreach activities about the whales and other marine mammals, are also highly regulated (Art. 121-35 to 121-43 A of the Code of the Environment). Unfortunately, many people don’t respect these rules, without common sense, starting with a number of those renting their services and boats to take tourists and curious to gaze whales.

How long can we look at this?
Is it just a lack of resources that the police is never present to enforce the rules, often simple common sense? Does this lack of means hide a cruel lack of political will and courage?

The question is well and truly laid, and the future of humpback whales depends.

My warmest thanks to Michel Fayadat  (Easy boat ) for his kindness, his competence and respectful love for humpback whales. http://fr-fr.facebook.com/pages/Papeete-French-Polynesia/Easy-Boat-Tahiti/190594665826?ref=ts

An article of Julien Gué
Translated from French by Monak

Copyright Julien Gué. Ask for the author’s agreement before any reproduction of the text or the images on Internet or traditional press.

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