San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Underwater Movie Project Aims to Conserve Oceans

A we l l – k n own mantra among divers and naturalists is: “We conserve what we love.” With that in mind, the Costa Rican Fisheries Institute (INCOPESCA), the agency that manages most of the country’s oceanic waters, granted permission to a team of divers (full disclosure: your correspondent included) a few weeks ago to dive with and film dolphins and whales underwater off the southern Pacific coast. The project is for a movie aimed at mobilizing an ocean conservation movement from the big screen.

Didier Noirot brought a team from France to assist with the cameras, scuba and rebreather gear (rebreathers recycle air with chemicals and thus produce none of the bubbles of scuba that often scare marine life). Noirot’s credits include top underwater cameraman for the BBC’s Blue Planet, Earth and Roboshark. He also crewed with legendary scuba inventor and marine conservationist Jacques Cousteau aboard the famed ship Calypso for more than a decade.

Costa Rica location coordinator Nico Ghersinich brought together a diverse group of interests and resources for the project. Three hotels – Aguila de Osa, Drake Bay Wilderness Resort and La Paloma Lodge – assisted the team on location in DrakeBay. The marine conservation organization MarViva assisted with its ship Proteus, including helicopter, to help find spinner dolphins. MarViva also hosted Environment Minister Roberto Dobles to observe the project action from the air and take note of the area offshore of CañoIsland and CorcovadoNational Park.

Many people in OsaPeninsula communities have cried for more than two decades that this especially productive marine area requires protection from the ceaseless slaughter of animals by the commercial fishing industry. Some very influential people are starting to agree.

The project will continue filming for one year. MarViva has reportedly offered the use of Proteus and her helicopter for at least one month. So far, the team has found separate groups of pantropical spotted dolphins, common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and spinner dolphins numbering more than a thousand. Two species of very rare and little known beaked whales also made appearances. Several sessions with pilot whales produced what everyone agreed is some of the best footage known of these mysterious creatures. The group also plans to film sessions in the poorly understood cetacean mecca known as the Costa Rican dome, far offshore. Perhaps once we see what’s there, we will fall in love and conserve it.

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