Our day started with nine eager interns, a skipper and Mr Vaseen, who might I say, impressed all of us. He is an oceanographer, environmental engineer, part time lawyer, skipper, diver and a pilot at the same time. The fact that he was the first ever oceanographer and environmental engineer in Mauritius got us all gawking at him with astonishment.
All huddled up together in the fast moving vessel we were glued to our seats gripping onto any sort of support to hold us down, passing by the port and a vast variety of lava rocks, tunnels and caves but nothing got us standing up leaning over the railings of the boat except for one thing, dolphins! We had reached the dolphin watching area, which was the 4th sector of activities held in the Mauritian sea after industrial fishing at 3rd, big game fishing and artisanal fishing at 2nd and 1st.
Heart beats increased and eyes widened as we watched these marvelous creatures swim around. Grey fins slashed through the surface of the blue waters glimmering in the hot sun in pods of five (A pod means a group of dolphins). Just a few feet away we watched as they came up for air then plunged back down into the surface gracefully, but we were brought back to reality when a large splash was made and the dolphins fled, that’s when I got out of my trance and actually looked around. Boats, groups of them around in a large circle cornering the beautiful mammals, tourists eager to touch and swim with this rarely seen event plunge directly into the water thus frightening the dolphins away.
This creates a series of problems. First, there is anchoring in the ‘homes’ of the dolphins. Dropping anchor destroys corals and these are important in keeping the water quality in the area high, without these reefs water quality decreases thus affecting dolphins or any other living creature around. Second is obvious, disturbance. Boats pile up every day with people fascinated by them and jumping into the dolphins habitat just to get a chance to touch or swim with them. This creates a danger for humans and the dolphins. Why does this endanger humans you say? Well as dolphins aren’t originally described as dangerous or harmful creatures they can be rather dominant and protective over their home or partner, especially the alpha male. To them you’re an alien walking into their home so they will instinctively think of you as a threat depending on what you do, especially if there are females around.
Dolphins have a brain almost the same size as a human brain so yes they are very smart in their own way. The first question I asked was about security and my answer was a disappointed frown and a “there’s none”. No coastguards were around to ensure the safety of the dolphins or people themselves, normally the law for harming and endangering a sea creature like dolphins is 5000 Mauritian rupees, but since the law was created a few years ago, no one has been fined. And there it was. We saw first hand dolphins being scared away from their own homes.
“Imagine coming home after a long day with your family only to be bombarded with transports around you, cameras and people staring while trying to touch you, how would you feel?”
Dolphin watching isn’t a crime at all, we all love dolphins. But before you follow, corner or actually jump into the water with a dolphin for your own self-satisfaction, think of how the dolphin is feeling first.
Written by Mariana Naya