Author: Thomas

The Killer Whale Project Could Be a Way to Break the Killer Whale

The Killer Whale Project Could Be a Way to Break the Killer Whale

New peril for gray whale survival? Predatory orcas spotted in Baja calving lagoon

After years of watching killer and pygmy killer whales breach into and harass gray whales, biologists may have found a way to disrupt the feeding behavior of the killer whale for good. As reported by the Washington Post, the Pacific Marine Conservation Organization (PMCO) is using a high-tech “optical-imaging method” to locate the orcas in the Baja Channel in Mexico. The effort has been dubbed the “Killer Whale Project.”

The story begins in 2013 when scientists detected, in the waters near the Baja California peninsula, an eerie spectacle: three orcas that, unbeknownst to them, were in the process of breaching, feeding on a gray whale.

According to the Washington Post, the orcas did not attack the whale, but they were there, and researchers saw them breaching.

In a statement to the Post, John Schoeneck, senior scientist with the nonprofit Pacific Marine Conservation Organization, said: “It was a very interesting sighting for us. We’ve been in the Baja Channel now for seven years and we’ve never seen anything like it before.”

Schoeneck told the Post that the team at PMCO has trained a camera-equipped drone to hover over the Baja Peninsula. The drone records the orcas’ movements when they breach, and, in the case of an encounter with a gray whale, sends the video to researchers around the world. “The drone can be programmed to stay motionless and to wait for an animal to breach and then go after it,” Schoeneck said.

In August 2017, the orcas were photographed breaching again at the same location. A little more than a month later, the group detected more orcas, three in all.

“The drone was able to keep up with them,” Schoeneck told the Post. “We could see them breaching, and we observed several other killer whales moving in groups around the area.”

The drones have also spotted pods of orcas in Alaska, Oregon, British Columbia and the United Kingdom.

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