Fishermen report orcas galore in Gulf of Mexico

Fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico are understandably excited by a recent sighting of what may have been a “superpod” of more than 200 killer whales — all swimming relatively close together and apparently fishing for tuna.

Up until the sighting earlier this month, Charter boat captain Eddie Hall thought he had seen everything.

“Lot’s of cool stuff, everything from submarines to ships to every kind of shark you can think of, never a killer whale,” he said during an interview with Debbie Williams of WKRG News in the Mobile-Pensacola area. “Never ever thought about seeing a killer whale in my lifetime in the Gulf.”

(If the screen below doesn’t work, go straight to the WKRG Web site.)

Until now, the population of killer whales in the Gulf had been estimated at 150, according to Williams’ report.

Biologist Keith Mullin said 17 orca sightings have been recorded. “Ten to 15 in a pod; that’s the most we’ve ever seen or really even gotten reports of,” he told WKRG.

The stock assessment report (PDF 152 kb) by the National Marine Fisheries Service suggests that very little is known about killer whales in the Gulf of Mexico. A report written in October 2007 offers a guesstimate of 49 animals in the Northern Gulf of Mexico area.

Thirty-two individuals have been photographically identified to date, with 6 individuals having been sighted over a 5 year period, and 1 whale resighted over 10 years… The Gulf of Mexico population is provisionally being considered a separate stock for management purposes, although there is currently no information to differentiate this stock from the Atlantic Ocean stock(s)…

There are insufficient data to determine the population trends for this species. The total level of U.S. Gulf of Mexico fishery-caused mortality and serious injury for this stock is unknown, but the rarity of mortality reports for this species suggests that this level is insignificant and approaching a zero mortality and serious injury rate.

As you can see, the knowledge about killer whales in the Gulf is considerably different from what we know about killer whales in the Northwest, where every birth and death of our two fish-eating resident populations are noted and where most of the seal-eating transients have been identified and monitored over time.

For a little more about the recent Gulf sighting, Steve Layton and Gary Finch wrote about the event on the Orange Beach (Ala.) Community Web site, where they said video would be coming soon.

Thanks go to Orca Network for tracking down good whale stories, wherever they take place.

2 thoughts on “Fishermen report orcas galore in Gulf of Mexico

  1. Does this mean that ‘our’ whales and other pods could have banded together with other pods to form such a huge group in the gulf?
    If they are a single pod, now could such a large number of killer whales be undetected until now?
    What a neat sight!

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