19th edition of Marine Life monthly post. Marine Life post published every 19th of the month. It aims to share information on marine life species and to promote their conservation.
It is awesome to see the marine animals such as the dolphins, manta rays, or turtles during our holiday. With the social media nowadays, it would be even ‘cool’ to show the world that we, humans can have connection these animals by touching them, picking them up from the sea or even making fun of them. It’s incredible how many images on the internet were showing these type of images by travelers.
Have you ever thought that what we did to them, for the sake of our travel memory or social media, might harass the marine animals, or even worse: could cause their death? Following is five frequent harassment by humans that can be easily found on the internet. I try my best to explain why these images are not supporting the eco-tourism and disrespectful to the wildlife.
Touching the Manta Ray
Manta Ray is a majestic animal. They are social to humans who swim with them and love scuba’s bubbles. I have witnessed a Manta Ray hovering on top of a scuba diver just to feel the air (scuba) bubble on its belly. Fascinating, as you were so close to touching this majestic animal. Hold your thought there. Human touch harms the Manta Rays. It will remove a protective, slime coating from the Manta Ray skin that will pose their skins hurt and irritated. The Ray does not like it either; it is a common knowledge shared by scuba divers, that once a scuba diver touched a Manta Ray, the Ray would leave and if they were in groups, the other rays would immediately leave the spot too.
Picking up the Sea Star (Starfish) on the beach/ sea
Sea Stars are colorful, and odd looking creatures that can be found easily on the beach and shallow water. Pictures of people picking up a live sea star that they found on the beach or underwater are common to see on Instagram, Facebook, Flickr and even on Photostock agency. The truth is, removing the still alive sea star, especially the ones that stick on the hard surface, could cause the possibility to damage its tube feet. The tube feet of the sea star are not only for “walking” but also to taste and smell. Some species of sea star could not stand living out of the water for more than ten seconds. Unless you were familiar with its species when picking up the sea star from the sea for selfie, you risked to give the sea star a death sentence.
Intentionally scare the puffer fish to make the fish puff/inflate
Unfortunately, this action usually being done by scuba diving guides or snorkeling guides to impress their customers. The guides, without doubts, know very well to handle the venomous puffer fish but do not care enough to understand that the fish inflates as its last resort to survive and could cause death when it deflates. When frightened and stressed, the pufferfish will inflate himself by sucking water and air he can swallow to fill his stomach. It is his defensive mechanism, but it also could get the fish killed when releasing the air after the inflation.
Engraving the coral with scuba knife or making graffiti with special chemical spray on the coral have happened in several countries lately, such as in Malaysia, the Philippines (multiple places), Palau and recently in Guam. The perpetrator in Guam engraves name “AUSTIN” and the law enforcement officers are asking for the public’s help to identify the person or people responsible for damaging the coral.
Most likely the perpetrators were certified scuba divers. As a certified scuba diver, I am disappointed by this action. We were trained for not touching nor harming marine species. Corals are invertebrate animals and protected by laws in many countries because they are endangered species. They have skeletons, stomach, mouth, and tentacles. Many fish species depending on corals for food and habitat, when the corals are dying, the fish are dying too. Without corals, there will be no fishes, and you may forget eating sushi. By vandalizing the corals, these perpetrators have contributed in killing the respective corals and the fishes that depend their lives on the corals.
Forcing Marine Animals to Pose for Picture
Some images of marine animals harassed by tourists are emerging on the internet lately. A picture of a woman straddling turtle on the beach in the USA for instance; a group of tourists lifted a baby dolphin from the sea in China. As if it is not enough, then an image of a group of snorkelers restrained a sea turtle in Malaysia. These animals are wildlife, and what these people think it was cool, but actually, it was cruel. These animals could feel threatened, scared and stress for such action. I just can’t believe why did such thing at the first place; this behavior shows how disrespectful humans are to the marine animals.
At this paragraph, I should write about how to be a responsible traveler and suggestion what to do if you were in the situation when finding these typical harassments. I decided not to as I am sure we all know the values of being a responsible traveler and would do what we think best for our ocean.
I had been in that situation when our friend told us of his most unforgettable travel moment in his life was when he touched a Giant Manta Ray on his snorkeling holiday. How could I, as a good friend, to tell him that his incredible, unforgettable moment was, in fact, hurting the Manta Ray? The truth might not as painful as the Manta Ray experienced after a human’s touch, but someone had to share the knowledge to ensure it would not repeat.