Ten years ago, after a five-month stay in Polynesia, the native of Paris, a biologist by training, specializing…
Ten years ago, after a stay of five months in Polynesia, the Parisian of origin, a biologist by training, specializing during her studies in Brest in marine mammals, decided to put down her suitcases in the South-West. She is now based in Labenne and works in Bayonne in another sector. Failing to be able to make it her job, she made it a passion, a voluntary commitment, by creating in 2012 the association Itsas arima, the soul of the sea in Basque.
“We have set ourselves three objectives”, describes the 30-year-old: “carry out monitoring at sea to find out the evolution over the years of the population of marine mammals” off the Landes and Basque coast, “raise public awareness” and “the next phase, how to better protect cetaceans”.
“In almost ten years of existence, we have had crazy observations of it”
The association, which today brings together around forty people, has made a name for itself in the media in recent years with photos and videos that have gone viral on social networks of its encounters with dolphins and other cetaceans.
Their last highlight: the one “very rich in emotions”, described in early May on the association’s Facebook page, with around thirty pilot whales. “In almost ten years of existence, we have had crazy sightings of it with cetaceans in the region, but this one will remain in our top 5. Certainly! “, adds the association in the publication. “A climate of trust was created” with these animals, “which moved us. When we are accepted by a group, when he introduces us to his little ones, when he is curious about us, we forget that we are on a boat. Each meeting is unique, it’s a crazy thing,” confides Aurore Toulot.
“We are not at Marineland”
Members of the association go to sea once a week or a month depending on the conditions, on boats made available by volunteers. Most of them take off from Capbreton and admire the biodiversity of the jewel of the Gouf.
“We leave early in the morning, we submerge a microphone to carry out tapping, which will make it possible to locate the animals. They have a communication similar to humans,” says Aurore Toulot. When the association has access to marine mammals, “we take photos by looking at their dorsals, which are like footprints for humans, to find out if we have already seen them in the past”.
Sometimes, some outings fail. “It’s the game. We’re not at Disneyland or Marineland,” slips the 30-year-old, who instinctively adds: “Obviously, the association is against the captivity” of marine mammals.
For fishing, Itsas Arima advocates a reasoned and responsible policy and consumption, publishing “a consumer guide”.
Some members of the association also work on a voluntary basis for the specialized scientific institute Pelagis in La Rochelle, alerting it to strandings of marine mammals. Incidental captures, mainly by trawls and gillnets, are the main cause of death among stranded dolphins.