We as underwater filmmakers will always try to show the beauty of our oceans and the wonderful creatures that call it home but it is also our duty to show you the less pleasant side of it. By reporting and documenting the problems that marine wildlife faces we create awareness because millions of people are still oblivious to the threats that endanger the very existence of all marine life and of these magnificent animals.
While filming a pod of Sperm Whales we came across an individual playing with a discarded synthetic raffia bag. Sperm Whales (Physeter macrocephalus) is the largest toothed predator on the planet, with adult males growing up to 20 meters in length and weighing over 50 tons. They are active hunters and their diet primarily consists of medium and large sized squids that is caught at great depths. Sperm whales are able to hunt these squid thanks to their specialised anatomy. Their teeth are sharp and conical, and their lower jaw is much longer than their upper jaw, allowing them to reach deep into the squid's body to grab hold of its soft tissue. Sperm whales also have the ability to dive to incredible depths - over 2,000 meters - to find their prey. They can hold their breath for up to two hours, which allows them to spend more time searching for food in the deep ocean.
Although the ditched packaging was drifting near the surface and doesn’t resemble their food source, it remains a potential deadly threat to the whale. Plastic waste in the ocean is one of the most pressing concerns for sperm whales and other marine mammals. Once inside the whale's body, these plastics can cause blockages, interfere with digestion, and release toxic chemicals into the bloodstream. Plastics do not biodegrade, but instead break down into smaller and smaller pieces over time. THE YELLOW BAG WAS REMOVED FROM THE OCEAN by our skipper when we surfaced from the dive and was discarded in a rubbish bin once back on land.
Bisides plastics and other debris in the ocean, pollution can take many forms like chemicals and contaminants that enter the water through runoff or other sources.Chemical pollution is also a concern for sperm whales. Many chemicals, including pesticides, heavy metals, and industrial compounds, can accumulate in the fatty tissues of marine animals, including sperm whales. These chemicals can interfere with hormone production, cause immune system dysfunction, and increase the risk of cancer and other diseases.
Another type of pollution that affects sperm whales is noise pollution. Whales use sound to communicate, navigate and find prey, but human activities such as shipping, drilling, and military exercises can create loud, persistent noise that interferes with these essential activities. This can lead to stress, disorientation, and even injury or death for whales and other marine mammals.
Filming at or near the surface is not always easy; choppy waves make it difficult to make steady shots and the light creates constant flashes, which results in complications regarding camera settings. The yellow bag was very light and reflected a lot of sunlight but the whale was of a very dark grey. In this case we chose to get the blue of the water as natural as possible and corrected wherever possible the colours and contrast of the whale and the bag in post-production.
For another post about Sperm Whales please go to our vlog post 59 or click on this link:
Dive into the world of underwater videography with our online Marine Wildlife Videography course!