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Apparently, there is no length that a false killer whale won’t go to for a tasty tuna treat. Due to the increase in sport fishing over the years, the marine mammals have had to share their hunting grounds with another predatory mammal… humans.
This time the whale had the upper hand – or fin – but they aren’t always this lucky.
Thanks to an increase in commercial fishing in their foraging grounds, false killer whales are often the “product” of bycatch. This particular whale (featured in the video above) was able to snag three baitfish from their hooks without being caught. Whew.
Aaron Thode is a marine biologist, who along with his team, used a GoPro camera, sound recording tech, and a vibration detector off the Hawaiian coast to study the mammal’s behavior, which is known as depredation. The team hopes to analyze how the orca doppelgänger goes about their fishy plunder.
Janice Straley is a team member and professor of biology at the University of Alaska Southeast, she commented, “This was a true collaborative effort with fisherman.” Thode also added, “This study addresses important questions about the nature of depredation, and whether underwater sound can be used to study or possibly alleviate the issue.”
The team hopes to prevent future bycatch by allowing local fisherman to calculate the number of false killer whales in their bait zone before they deploy their longlines. Thode explains, “This might lead to new ways to recognize and reduce bycatch, protecting both animals and fishermen from unintentional encounters.”
The false killer whale is currently listed as DD in the IUCN’s Red List, which means Data Deficient. Basically, the more we know about these magnificent mammals the better, so keep up the good work team!
Want to learn more about the team’s research?
Fun Fact: Despite its name, the false killer whale is not a close relative of the killer whale, or orca. They’re actually the fourth largest member of the oceanic dolphin family.