A sad scene was uncovered near a beach in Samut Sakhon, south of Bangkok, on Sunday, June 29, where a rare whale had washed ashore and was believed to have died two weeks earlier. A local conservation outfit then staged a photoshoot with the dead whale in order to raise awareness about the effects of pollution and over-fishing in the Gulf of Thailand.
The whale was a Bryde’s whale, which make their homes around the waters off Samut Prakan, Samut Sakhon, Samut Songkhran and Petchaburi. Some have even been spotted as far away as the Andaman Sea. Many people are unfamiliar with the threatened species and do not realise that they live in these areas, which are being devastated by intensive fishing practices and pollution.
The group who conducted a small photoshoot with the 11-ton, 11-metre whale are known as The Flying Scouts, and describe themselves as a team of “enthusiasts using aircraft, photography and willpower to help conservation and humanitarian projects” in Thailand. They conduct aerial surveys of the seas and are committed to the conservation of endangered species, like the Dugong whale which used to thrive in the Gulf of Thailand. They too have been threatened by hunting, habitat degradation, and industrial fishing fatalities.
The Flying Scouts managed to catch photos of the dead whale, which they believed had died from being caught in a fishing net. They then staged a small photoshoot with a female model, who stood in front of the dead whale wearing smokey make-up and dark clothes. In one of the shots, she holds a black net around her face to symbolise the dangerous imposition of manmade articles onto marine animals.
While The Flying Scouts say that the pictures caused a lot of controversy among the Thai mainstream and social media, as people might find posing with a dead animal offensive or distasteful, they justified their decision by pointing out the attention it received. They stated, “Regardless of peoples perception behind the intentions of this series of photographs, the fact they are stimulating discussion about this sad event is a positive development, and hopefully make a small contribution to the future survival of these animals in the near future.”
The whales are part of the same family as humpback and blue whales and are capable of living between 50 – 70 years in their natural habitat, but usually only produce one calf per whale. This makes it harder for them to repopulate as quickly as they are killed by our hands.
However, the livelihood of these whales is actually compromised solely by humans. Litter and pollution is one factor of the problem – the simple act of dropping a piece of plastic on the ground will most likely end up harming creatures in the sea. And just like many other animals, they needlessly become ‘bycatch’ due to industrial fishing practices. They have also become important targets for the modern Japanese whaling industry after they depleted other targets in the 1970’s. All these factors need to be addressed in order to save species like the Bryde’s whale, Dugong, and countless other animals in our oceans.
Visit The World Wildlife Fund to learn more about over-fishing and sea pollution, and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to join the fight against modern whaling and help protect the world’s oceans. Also visit Ocean Alliance to adopt your own whale.