Whales ‘playing’ in False Bay during lockdown

Whales spotted "playing" in False Bay, during lock down

A whale watching charter in South Africa’s famous False Bay has captured amazing pictures of Orcas, the dreaded killer whales, frolicking off the coast.

This comes after marine biologist revealed last year that sharks were under attack by Killer Whales in the same area.

The pictures, by Simon’s Town Boat Company, based in the historic naval town 40km from Cape Town, have kept South Africans enthralled during their enforced self-isolation in the Coronavirus lockdown.

Boat skipper and operator Dave Hurwitz said he was lucky to be hired by a media house with the necessary permits to go out and photograph the whales on Sunday (26 April 2020).

By Tuesday afternoon, the Facebook posting of the whale sighting had more than 5000 likes and 6000 shares.

Hurwitz is internationally known in the marine tourism and conservation world, having appeared on Discovery, National Geographic and other TV channels.

Describing the latest sighting in a Facebook post, he said there were six possibly seven orcas 6, possibly 7 orcas foraging in the deeper waters in Buffels Bay, a part of the Cape Point nature reserve.

He said: “One Male, 3 or 4 females and 2 calfs (one very young). We’re not sure what they were targeting, but there were many seals & birds around. Again, as we’ve noticed before, the seals weren’t the slightest bit afraid of the killer whales and they showed no interest in them (luckily).

We spent a few hours with them, of which they spent little time on the surface. On a few occasions we thought that they had given us the slip, but then re-appeared a distance away.

The highlight was the little calf who entertained us with a few beautiful breaches.”

The sighting comes only months after a decline in great white shark sightings in False Bay.
The whales move to across the ocean seeking fresh hunting grounds, most likely due to the decline in prey in other parts of the world.

Credit:: Simon's Town Boat Company (Facebook Page)

In an article written by marine biologist Dr Alison Kock, in The Conversation, she said that False Bay food chain began to change in 2015 with the appearance of the Killer Whales. 

“The change was noted with the discovery of several dead sevengill sharks by scuba divers from a popular dive site inside the Table Mountain National Park marine protected area. This site was home to an exceptionally large group of sevengill sharks. 

Divers could dive with up to 70 sharks on a single hour-long dive – no other place in the world had this many broadnose sevengill sharks in one place,” she said in her write-up dated February 2019.

“Initially, the cause of death remained a mystery because no dead sharks were recovered for examination. Initially, fingers were pointed to humans, great white sharks, or killer whales. It was only months later following the discovery of more dead sharks and examination of the carcasses by scientists that the fingers pointed straight at killer whales.”

Kock said that the theory was the attacks on broadnose sevengill sharks were possibly indicative of the arrival of a different sub‐group – or ecotype – of killer whale in the bay that feeds on sharks.

“Great white shark sightings have also declined in False Bay, possibly in part due to the presence of these killer whales. There are substantial gaps in our understanding of killer whale behavioural ecology in South Africa, but what’s evident is that the presence of these shark specialists could have profound and cascading impacts on the ecosystem,” she added.