Entangled ocean giant washes up at Willows

One of the mightiest predators of the seas washed up on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth this week, once again flagging the threat of mismanaged waste and marine debris.

The carcass of the orca, or killer whale, stranded on the rocks at the Willows and a rope was looped around its two pectoral fins, Bayworld marine biologist Dr Greg Hofmeyr said on Monday.

“It was in good condition otherwise, with a thick layer of blubber.

“As a marine mammal it would have needed to come up for air and if it was entangled, which is what we think, it would not have been able to do so properly and it would have drowned.”

In late September, the carcass of a humpback whale with a long line tangled around its tail stock washed up at Sardinia Bay and for two such large iconic marine animals to die in the same area in such a short time was sad and worrying, Hofmeyr said.

“It is a concern.

“These encounters between ocean life and fishing and other human waste are happening more often than they used to.

“While this could partly be to do with the increase of whale populations, certainly one of the definite contributors is an increase in marine debris.”

He said that despite their size and striking black and white markings, relatively little was known about orcas.

“This one was floating already dead for some time because decay was advanced and it was heavily scavenged by sharks.

“It was a mature male orca, about 6.6m long and weighing about 4,200kg.

“Male orcas live 50-60 years and it’s a great shame to lose such an animal.”

The species does occasionally appear in Algoa Bay and in July 2018 there was great excitement when a distinctive pair of killer whales with floppy dorsal fins, thought to be terrorising white sharks in the Western Cape —  and the source of much ire from the white shark cage-diving industry — surfaced off Cape Recife.

Hofmeyr said it was not clear if the stranded specimen was one of those orcas, but he and his stranding team would be sharing all their findings after they had completed their biopsy.

He said he and seven volunteers had spent since last Tuesday, when the orca stranded, collecting samples from the carcass.

They had finally removed the whole skeleton and the aim was to mount it for special display at Bayworld.

“The message is to please take care to dispose of your waste properly because otherwise it can land up in the ocean and cause this kind of suffering and death.”

Anyone who comes across a marine animal washed up on the shore should call the stranding hotline 071-724-2122.

Article: HeraldLive. By Guy Rogers