GEMM IN A NUTSHELL
The Marine Mammal Study Group is an association dedicated to monitoring the state of populations and habitat of marine mammals in the South Pacific.
Born in 2009 in French Polynésia, it is made up of biologists, naturalists, veterinarians, travelers and sailors passionate about the marine environment. Team members from all walks of life join us every year in the field to help us carry out our observation missions and our expeditions.
AREAS OF FOCUS AND PARTNERSHIPS
Our action revolves around three principles:
Observe, compare, testify.
These principles and our permanence in the field allow us to alert the entire community to the problems encountered by cetaceans and the associated biodiversity in their natural habitat. In Polynesia, for example, the GEMM was the first to draw up an inventory of the problems encountered by marine mammals in their sanctuary: invasive animal tourism and the conflicts between fishing and certain cetaceans are an illustration of this.
The GEMM is a member of the Federation of Polynesian Environmental Protection Associations Teoranaho-fape, collaborates with the national collective Vigie Mer and the French National Beaching Network
INVASIVE WILDLIFE TOURISM
In Polynesia, likewise elsewhere in the world we witness a fast development of businesses proposing “whale and dolphin watching” and promising unique encounters with wild cetaceans. These tourist businesses often exploit myths and misplaced legends about those creatures to promote non-respectful commercial activities that disturb and sometimes harm such marine mammals as the humpback whale, the common bottlenose dolphin, and the spinner dolphin.
This so-called ecotourism was sold to government officials and the public based on two benefits: to enjoy the beauty of these marine mammals in natural settings and to warn and educate world citizens about their fragility. But, current trends show that the benefits from these activities are out-weighed by adverse consequences on these wild species resulting from “behavioral pollution” and disruption of their lifecycles.
Since 2009, GEMM has been analyzing the impact of tourism on whales and dolphins in the Tuamotu and Society Islands. In particular, scientific study has examined the effects of commercial diving activities on the behavior of the common bottlenose dolphin community inhabiting the northern part of Rangiroa atoll.
CONFLICTS BETWEEN INDUSTRIAL FISHING AND MARINE MAMMALS
The scarcity of marine fauna in Polynesia leads to increasingly frequent and acute problems between fishermen and marine mammals. These problems include depredation behaviors in which animals remove, partially or totally, bait or catch from fishing gear. Cetaceans then can fall victim to accidental capture or even to retaliation by fishermen frustrated by the difficulties of catching overfished species.
Globally, false killer whales account for two-thirds of the species killed or seriously injured in fisheries, exceeding in some places the resilience of populations. Pilot whales are not left out: decline in their populations has also been reported in Hawaiian waters. The problem is all the more important as mortality rates are being reassessed at higher levels due, in part, to climate change.
Since 2012, GEMM has been working to better understand the problems of coastal and offshore depredation in the Tuamotu and Marquesas archipelagoes in partnership with CRIOBE, DRMM, and some of concerned captains and crew of Polynesian fishing boats.