‘Unheard of’: Killer whales surprise fishermen on video
A RARE sighting of killer whales has astounded commercial fishermen plying Gulf of Carpentaria waters off the coast of Weipa.
A pod of about five was caught on video by spanish mackerel fisherman Ben Davies about 100km off the coast of Weipa on Monday.
Killer whales, which usually inhabit cooler coastal waters off the coast of Antarctica, have one of the widest geographic distributions of any mammal.
Eye On the Reef citizen science data dating back to 2008 records no east coast killer whale sightings, however a pod was recorded off Fraser Island in 2013 and another southwest of Darwin in 2015.
Reef and Rainforest Research Centre program director Suzanne Long said it was unusual for orca populations to be spotted in tropical waters.
"They are certainly not common in the tropics but they have been reported in the Gulf before," Dr Long said.
Mr Davies and his father were taken aback to see the pod.
"Dad has been fishing the Gulf for eight years and he has never seen it before. We were pretty shocked, it's pretty unheard of," he said.
"We were just cruising along and they came right up to the boat; they were not too concerned and just playing."
Tropical Pacific Ocean populations display a fainter pale area behind the dorsal fin and adult males have a shorter back fin compared with their cool water brethren.
Mr Davies said it appeared the group had isolated a sailfish from a school and was in pursuit.
"There was about a pod of five of them and they were cruising through the waves," he said.
"There was a bit of commotion and a sail fish came darting toward the boat for the boat for protection."
Mr Davies said in the past 10 years only a handful of reports documented killer whales in the Gulf.
Originally published as 'Unheard of': Killer whales surprise fishermen off Cape York