Alaska fisherman are reporting that they’re having an issue keeping the fish that they catch in their nets, all thanks to an orca whale population that is entirely undeterred by human occupation.
The fisherman report that orcas are increasingly getting into the nets they have set up to catch massive amount of fish. The whales have figured out how to get into the nets as they sit in the water. They then eat all the fish.
Fisherman are now having a shortage of wares because the orcas have been attacking with such ferocity.
A few years ago, orca sightings in the Bering Sea were rare, fishermen tell the Alaska Dispatch News. Now the whales are appearing in large numbers to clear fishermen’s hooks and lines of cod and halibut. “It’s gotten completely out of control,” says Jay Hebert, who’s spent four decades fishing in the Bering Sea. Not only are the whales undeterred by sonar meant to keep them away, Hebert says, but more whales are appearing with increased aggression.
Some fishermen believe the orcas target specific boats, which they follow for days. That comes as no surprise to NOAA biologist John Moran, who says orcas are adept at hunting, can recognize boats by the sound they make, and may also recognize the sound of a hydraulic system lowering fishing gear as a kind of dinner bell. Moran adds orcas are known to pass on the skills they acquire, which explains why juvenile whales have been spotted around fishing boats. The National Post notes that orcas have been known to adapt their hunting strategies to particular regions within their “remarkably complex social structures.” (An orca hunting frenzy was caught on film.)
Fisherman have reported losing about 30,000 pounds of fish per day, plus the cost of fuel used trying to escape the hungry pods.
With sightings of marine life increasing on human populated shores, the orca’s new creativity is not a surprise to scientists. Many shores around the world have been reporting sightings of sea lions, sharks, whales of all kinds, and even dolphins.
Now that whales have evolved enough to get into human tools, fisherman are looking into new ways to protect their harvests.