PHOTO OF A LIFETIME: Divers experience an incredible, up-close whale encounter during a Blue Dolphin Marine Tours outing in Hervey Bay.
PHOTO OF A LIFETIME: Divers experience an incredible, up-close whale encounter during a Blue Dolphin Marine Tours outing in Hervey Bay. Cassandra Smith

Why your Instagram selfie could be harming whales

THE number of people desperate for a selfie with marine giants is rapidly on the rise.

Speaking about responsible in-water encounters with cetaceans at the World Whale Conference, Chantel Pagel revealed there had been a whopping 292 per cent increase in wildlife-selfies on Instagram from 2014 to 2017.

The Auckland University of Technology PhD candidate outlined her research on the influence of social media on swim-with-whale tourist behaviour.

She said there had been a definite shift in tourist behaviour from passive to more engaged.

"People want to get up close with wildlife and it can be dangerous," she said.

Following a case study of swim-with-humpback whales tourism in Niue, an island in the South Pacific, Ms Pagel revealed her findings.

"Social media may create unrealistic expectations. I think people seem to want to recreate photos they have seen on Facebook or Instagram," she said.

Ms Pagel said while social media was a powerful tool for sharing content, selifes with wildlife were often frowned upon.

According to World Animal Protection, an investigation showed there were thousands of cruel selfies on Instagram taken with wild animals.

This encouraged more people to take their own photos, continuing the ongoing suffering and cruelty towards wildlife.

Dylan Walker, CEO for the secretariat of the World Cetacean Alliance said the desire to experience those close encounters with whales and dolphins could serve to escalate the problems the animals already faced.

Irresponsible whale watching could result in harassment of the animals, leading to behavioural changes and can even hindering reproductive rates," he said.

"In the worst cases, serious or fatal injuries caused by strikes from whale watching and other vessels can occur if boats attempt to approach the animals too closely and with reckless handling," he said.

Mr Walker added there were many responsible whale watching companies operating in Hervey Bay.



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