[First ever] Sighting of killer whales confirmed [in Bahraini waters]

Loren Coleman lcoleman at maine.rr.com
Mon Jan 5 07:34:31 EST 2004


http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/Articles.asp?Article=70713&Sn=BNEW

Gulf Daily News

Vol XXVI       NO. 290              Sunday              4 January 2004

Sighting of killer whales confirmed

By EUNICE del ROSARIO

EXPERTS yesterday confirmed the first ever sighting of killer whales in
Bahraini waters.

New photographs have come to light which appear to prove the huge mammals -
otherwise known as orcas - were indeed alive, well and living off the coast
of Sitra.

The confirmation comes just a day after the GDN first reported their
sighting by a group of eight dolphin watchers.

Experts were unable to confirm the original sighting because photographs
taken at the time were inconclusive.

However, these pictures taken on the same day are more convincing.

"I am convinced that these are killer whales," said Fisheries and Marine
Resources Director Jassim Al Qaseer after the GDN forwarded him new
photographs taken a few miles off the coast of Sitra.

He added that the animals are not false killer whales - which resemble
orcas, but are smaller in size - as previously suspected.

Two photographs clearly showing distinctive black and white markings, as
well as the huge dorsal and pectoral fins of killer whales, were sent to the
GDN by reader Anne Khalil.

She contacted us after reading yesterday's story about the first ever
sighting of killer whales by Briton Wayne Broadley and his friends on
December 19.

The new photographs were taken by Mrs Khalil's friend, New Zealander Martin
Bates, when he was out boating with friends on the same day.

Mr Al Qaseer said the fact that killer whales have visited the area at all
is "very exciting news".

"Before the GDN brought this news to our attention at the directorate, we
never heard of killer whales in our waters before," he said.

"Nothing like this has ever happened in our waters."

However, he added it was likely that the orcas have now left the area.

If they are still sticking to the Bahrain coastline, he does not expect them
to stay for very long.

"I believe the cooler weather has something to do with their visit here," he
said.

"But because the salinity of our water is different than the open seas I
don't expect them to stay long.

"The presence of ample food in the area where they were spotted must have
also played a big role in them being there."

It is thought the killer whales may have followed ships carrying cattle or
sheep from South East Asia or Australia.

The area where they were spotted, situated about two miles off the coast of
Sitra, is a popular feeding ground for humpback dolphins.

Mr Al Qaseer believes the animals spotted by Mr Broadley and his friends
were the same killer whales spotted by Mr Bates' group.

Pictures taken by Mr Bates at around 11.30am clearly show the animals' size
and markings.

"We observed the orcas for a good five to 10 minutes," said New Zealander
Arron Atkinson, who was one of the four people on Mr Bates' boat.

"It was a very calm day so we had a really good look at the two killer
whales, one of which was bigger than the other."

One of the mammals was said to be considerably larger than Mr Bates' 19-foot
boat.

"One of them must have been over 20 feet long, with its dorsal fin about
four feet high," said Mr Atkinson.

"These animals were magnificent. It was a very exciting time for us.

"At one time one of the orcas came up to the boat, close enough to touch
them, but we didn't dare. One came right underneath the boat."

However, the presence of killer whales in the area could pose a threat to
the marine life already there.

"The area, as said before, is a popular feeding ground for dolphins," said
Mr Al Qaseer. "Killer whales are known to eat dolphins.

"Their presence there may well cause an imbalance in the marine life."

Orcas have been observed feeding upon birds, dolphins, penguins, sharks,
seals, porpoise and even large whales.

But despite its name, the killer whale has never been known to hurt humans
in the wild.

The Fisheries and Marine Resources Directorate is now considering conducting
a study on the orcas and their presence in Bahrain's waters.

"This is something definitely worth following up," said Mr Al Qaseer.

Fishermen and boat owners are urged to keep an eye out for killer whales and
report any more sightings to the directorate.

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