Pods of crafty orcas in Alaska’s Bering Sea have identified a great way so you can get fed. Rather than finding the fish themselves, the clever whales chase down fishing boats and steal the entire day’s catch, approximately 20,000 to 30,000 pounds of halibut and black cod, in just one swoop.
Killer whale “bandits” are not a completely new phenomenon. Japanese fishermen have reported being pursued by pods for the reason that 1950s, its keep are numerous other encounters reported around Alaska and other portions of the entire world since. However, the growing frequency of whale fish theft inside the Bering Sea’s continental shelf, which contains a high density in the mammals, is threatening the livelihood of fishermen that frequent the location.
Paul Clampitt, your local fisherman, says his crew attempted to fend off the whales with loud sounds. Though that helped a few days, the mammals now find the noise “a dinner bell.” Jay Herbert, who compares the thieving orcas to “motorcycle gangs,” tried using sonars that emit a frequency that will maintain the whales away. He too met with little success. Using the veteran fisherman, the smart whales deliberately find longliners, and, on the first opportunity given to them, strip the hooks clean, abandoning only the lips within the fish caught!
Robert Hanson, who’s been frequenting the Bering Sea since 1992, has numerous encounters using the stealing orcas and lost when. He recalls one incident as soon as the aggressive whales hounded his boat non-stop for hours. So as to outrun them, the crew wasted 4,000 pounds of fuel and eventually lost the 12,000 pounds of halibut they’d caught. During another expedition, 50 whales pursued his boat for more than 48 hours, after the engine had been turned off. The frustrated fisherman finally lost the fight seeking to fish and returned home empty-handed. The longliner in addition observed juvenile orcas in the region and believes they are really learning the ability of stealing by their mothers!
NOAA Fisheries biologist John Moran is just not amazed at the mammals’ thieving prowess. The expert says whales are skilled hunters who could distinguish amongst the sounds of various boats and in many cases recognize the sounds within the hydraulic system that places the fishing gear to the ocean. The expert quips, “Grabbing a fish off a line is nothing.” As they are social animals, it isn’t difficult for that whales to pass a their skills to other people.
Orcas are not the sole whale species who have learned to steal from humans. While in the Gulf of Alaska, sperm whales, some the size of school buses, also conduct similar heists. Longline fishermen off Washington, Chile, Australia, Hawaii, many other countries have reported similar incidents.
There is, unfortunately, a very difficult fix for this problem. On the list of solutions being considered is applying pot traps just as the ones accustomed to catch crabs. However, the buying price of switching from longline to pot fishing is prohibitive, particularly for small-scale fisheries. There is also no guarantee consumption are going to be safe from the intelligent mammals who, many fear, could eventually learn how to open the pots!