Researchers Had ‘No Idea’ Killer Whales Could Dive This Deep

October 4, 2018

Killer whales in the South Atlantic Ocean are willing to dive more than a thousand feet more than previously recorded—if they are certain to get a snack at the end of it, researchers have discovered. And the best way to guarantee food is to steal it.

BC-based marine researcher Jared Towers witnessed a tagged killer whale diving 3,566 feet to snag some toothfish off a long commercial fishing line. More than 60 killer whales and 40 sperm whales were studied, though just one of each was tagged because whales aren’t particularly cooperative, said Towers.

“We had no idea they were physiologically capable of diving this deep. This depth record destroys all others for the species,” said Towers, who detailed his team’s findings in a new paper published last month in the journal ICES Journal of Marine Science.

Towers travelled to the frigid, choppy waters surrounding South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands to learn more about what killer and sperm whales are willing to do to eat.

Killer whales, depending on size, can eat between 200-400 pounds of fish a day. They also often share food with their kin. Toothfish in the south Atlantic are a particularly energy-dense and highly desirable food for whales of all types.

Towers told me by phone that researchers witnessed killer and sperm whales competing to steal fish from the longlines, and in some cases the whales even acted aggressively while competing for food.

“Considering fishing is usually stopped when killer whales show up to steal fish, we hypothesize that their extreme behaviours are driven by the limited availability of the energy rich toothfish resource,” Towers said.

Sperm whales are normally able to dive deeper than killer whales, he added, especially when they’re in the business of catching prey: “The sperm whale goes deeper, faster and longer when it was stealing fish compared to when it wasn’t.”

The fact that the killer whales—which aren’t really known for ultra-deep dives—were also setting new dive records could be a byproduct of this competition, he explained. The killer whales observed for this study dove quickly and then had to spend hours recovering. One whale spent four hours at the surface trying to fight off the bends. “They’ll do anything for food, if the food is the right kind,” said Towers.

Fisheries may be aghast at the discovery. Typically they set out longlines, measuring 2.5-7.5 miles in length with hooks every 10 feet or so, to haul in multiple fish at once.

Clearly the whales understood how the fishing boats worked; whales were observed following ships for up to 200 miles before making their move on the toothfish.

These new diving behaviors are impressive, yet also a cause for concern.The whales could easily get a hook in the mouth or get wrapped in the line. Worse, they could also become dependent on human fishing as a way to get food.

“Fisheries are volatile. If the fishery collapses, the whale suffers too,” said Towers.

He noted that the whales’ habits might encourage fisheries to develop new techniques to prevent their thieving, which could potentially endanger the animals.

Still, at least for the time being, the killer whales appear to be getting fish-rich off of human activities in the ocean. Godspeed, Willy.

Source: Motherboard.vice.com

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Orca ‘apocalypse’: half of killer whales doomed to die from pollution

September 27, 2018

At least half of the world’s killer whale populations are doomed to extinction due to toxic and persistent pollution of the oceans, according to a major new study.

Although the poisonous chemicals, PCBs, have been banned for decades, they are still leaking into the seas. They become concentrated up the food chain; as a result, killer whales, the top predators, are the most contaminated animals on the planet. Worse, their fat-rich milk passes on very high doses to their newborn calves.

PCB concentrations found in killer whales can be 100 times safe levels and severely damage reproductive organs, cause cancer and damage the immune system. The new research analysed the prospects for killer whale populations over the next century and found those offshore from industrialised nations could vanish as soon as 30-50 years.

Among those most at risk are the UK’s last pod, where a recent death revealed one of the highest PCB levels ever recorded. Others off Gibraltar, Japan and Brazil and in the north-east Pacific are also in great danger. Killer whales are one of the most widespread mammals on earth but have already been lost in the North Sea, around Spain and many other places.

“It is like a killer whale apocalypse,” said Paul Jepson at the Zoological Society of London, part of the international research team behind the new study. “Even in a pristine condition they are very slow to reproduce.” Healthy killer whales take 20 years to reach peak sexual maturity and 18 months to gestate a calf.

PCBs were used around the world since the 1930s in electrical components, plastics and paints but their toxicity has been known for 50 years. They were banned by nations in the 1970s and 1980s but 80% of the 1m tonnes produced have yet to be destroyed and are still leaking into the seas from landfills and other sources.

The international Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants came into force in 2004 to tackle the issue, but Jepson said the clean-up is way behind schedule. “I think the Stockholm Convention is failing,” he said. “The only area where I am optimistic is the US. They alone produced 50% of all PCBs, but they have been getting PCB levels down consistently for decades. All we have done in Europe is ban them and then hope they go away.”

The researchers said PCBs are just one pollutant found in killer whales, with “a long list of additional known and as yet unmeasured contaminants present”. Further problems for killer whales include the loss of key prey species such as tuna and sharks to overfishing and also growing underwater noise pollution.

The new research, published in the journal Science, examined PCB contamination in 351 killer whales, the largest analysis yet. The scientists then took existing data on how PCBs affect calf survival and immune systems in whales and used this to model how populations will fare in the future. “Populations of Japan, Brazil, Northeast Pacific, Strait of Gibraltar, and the United Kingdom are all tending toward complete collapse,” they concluded.

Lucy Babey, deputy director at conservation group Orca, said: “Our abysmal failures to control chemical pollution ending up in our oceans has caused a killer whale catastrophe on an epic scale. It is essential that requirements to dispose safely of PCBs under the Stockholm Convention are made legally binding at the next meeting in May 2019 to help stop this scandal.” Scientists have previously found “extraordinary” levels of toxic pollution even in the 10km-deep Mariana trench in the Pacific Ocean.

“This new study is a global red alert on the state of our oceans,” said Jennifer Lonsdale, chair of the Wildlife and Countryside Link’s whales group. “If the UK government wants its [proposed] Environment Act to be world-leading, it must set ambitious targets on PCB disposal and protect against further chemical pollution of our waters.”

The research shows that killer whale populations in the high north, off Norway, Iceland, Canada and the Faroes, are far less contaminated due to their distance from major PCB sources. ”The only thing that gives me hope about killer whales in the longer term is, yes, we are going to lose populations all over the industrialised areas, but there are populations that are doing reasonably well in the Arctic,” said Jepson.

If a global clean-up, which would take decades, can be achieved, these populations could eventually repopulate empty regions, he said, noting that killer whales are very intelligent, have strong family bonds and hunt in packs. “It is an incredibly adaptive species – they have been able to [live] from the Arctic to the Antarctic and everywhere in between.”

He praised the billion-dollar “superfund” clean-ups in the US, such as in the Hudson River and Puget Sound, where the polluter has paid most of the costs: “The US is going way beyond the Stockholm Convention because they know how toxic PCBs are.”

Source: The Guardian.com

Beached killer whale rescued from Argentina beach

August 27, 2018

A killer whale that washed up on an Argentina beach was returned to the ocean at the end of a nearly 20-hour rescue effort.

Marine rescue charity Fundacion Mundo Marino dispatched a team of rescuers Friday night to work together with the Argentine Naval Prefecture and Civil Defense after the orca was found beached in Nueva Atlantis.

The rescuers said they worked to straighten the whale to prevent its blowhole from going below the water, which could have led to the animal drowning.

The groups worked for nearly 20 hours before successfully returning the killer whale to the ocean.

To watch VIDEO of the rescue visit the Source upi.com

Pod of savage orcas tear live hammerhead shark to pieces in harrowing deep sea footage

March 31, 2017

The clip, shot by marine wildlife videographer Roberto Ochoa, shows the fearsome beasts toying with the stricken shark, already badly disfigured.

Communicating using a series of squeaks and clicks that reverberate around the ocean, the trio of killers take turns to munch a piece out of the shark.

Eventually, two of the whales swim away, leaving the sorry carcass of flesh to the last orca to devour in peace.

The video was filmed off the coast of the Galapagos Islands – a group of small islands off the west coast of Ecuador, South America.

To read the FULL article and watch VIDEO visit Daily Star.co.uk

THREE KILLER WHALES SPOTTED IN SOUTHERN BELIZE

January 7, 2017


PLACENCIA, Stann Creek, Wed. Jan. 4, 2017–A male killer whale known as the orca, spanning more than 30 feet, has surprisingly surfaced in the south of Belize—a very rare sight in our tropical waters. The majestic apex predator aggressively warded off Belizean tour guides and stay-over tourists who were on a trip in the Ranguana Caye area last Thursday, before heading north with another adult whale and a younger whale of the same species, presumably on a migratory trip to cooler waters.

Known scientifically as Orcinus orca, this type of whale is distinguished by its distinctive black-and-white skin patches.

Jason Westby, who conducts fishing tours with a few different resorts as a freelance tour guide, told Amandala that on the day of the incident, he was working with Chabil Mar, and he was touring with a couple from Texas, USA, when the drama unfolded sometime between 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. on December 29.

At the time, they were between Ranguana Caye and Palm Owens Caye, both located on the Belize Barrier Reef. They were situated about a mile and a half from the drop-off of the reef when the sighting was made.

Westby said that tuna, a prey of the orcas, were likely about a mile from where they were, since there was a sighting of birds in the area.

The tour guide said that when he first saw a big splash, he did not know what it was, and told his guests, “Guys, there is something massive over there!”

Westby said that he thought it was a marlin, but jokingly said that it must be an orca – the killer whale which is a predatory species in the dolphin family. It is said that orcas don’t eat people, although there have been reports of non-fatal attacks.

“It was jumping straight at us like a freight train. I reversed the boat and he kept jumping at us and flapping, perhaps to ward us off,” Westby recounted.

There were three orcas, including a baby whale, the tour guide told us. He believes that the adults were about 30 to 32 feet long, much bigger than his 23-foot skiff.

“After about 5 to 6 minutes, another orca jumped in a distance, then we noticed that there were two whales consistently moving on the surface,” said Westby, adding that they eventually realized that there were three orcas in all.

“All of a sudden, they started to head north. We followed them for about a half-mile and turned back and went trying to fish again,” he said.

Blue Reef Adventures posted a video on Facebook of the encounter with the orcas, captured by another tour led by Rowland Alford, and it has captivated the attention of many nature lovers.

According to National Geographic, the killer whales known as orcas are the largest of the dolphins and one of the world’s most powerful predators.

“They feast on marine mammals such as seals, sea lions, and even whales, employing teeth that can be four inches (ten centimeters) long. They are known to grab seals right off the ice. They also eat fish, squid, and seabirds,” it added.

Westby suspects that they must have been feeding on tunas in the area where yellowfin tunas had been recently spotted.

The tour guide told us that he has been trying to research when the last sighting in Belize was recorded, but he did not find any information to satisfy his query.

“I would really like to know myself,” Westby told us.

Leo Flores, who commented on the video posted on social media, said: “There have only ever been about a dozen sightings in the Western Caribbean in the past 150 years, according to data collected for ‘The Mammal Society’ from 1866 thru 2012: 1 south of Belize City, 1 near Lighthouse Reef & 1 south-east of Belize’s Sapodilla Cayes… plus in 2014: Orcas [were seen] near Maugre Caye around Turneffe.”

He added that, “…this new 2016 sighting north of the Sapodilla Cayes near Ranguana Caye highlights the importance of protecting all wildlife by making our waters as safe as possible for them!”

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Visit the source to see VIDEO of the sighting: amandala.com

Killer Pics of Killer Whales In Belize’s Southern Waters

December 30, 2016


Yesterday, recreational fishermen and tourists who were at sea near Ranguana Caye off the coast of Placencia, saw an Orca whale leaping out of the water. It’s called “full breach” where the whale jumps completely out of the water.
Orcas, which typically live in higher latitude areas like Washington State in the US and Norway some times travel through our tropical waters while they migrate. They are known as the second most widely ranging mammal species on the planet – so they go all over the place. Meaning it’s not so unusual to see them in Belize’s waters, though it is a very rare sighting. We are told this picture was captured by Placencia tour guide Jason Westby.

Source:  7newsbelize.com