Orcas – informally referred to as killer whales because of their fearsome reputation – are majestic mammals found in Australian waters between the months of June and October on the east coast, and January to April on the west.
Weighing up to six tonnes, the orca is, in fact, the largest species of dolphin rather than a whale as its nickname suggests. Bearing flesh-eating teeth of up to 10 centimetres long, the mammals are rightly feared in the ocean. https://www.livescience.com/27431-orcas-killer-whales.html
Traditionally found in colder waters of the Antarctic, much more research about the habits of orcas in Australia is needed. Here are some confirmed sightings:
Byron Bay – Northern New South Wales
In 2017, the distinctive black and white markings of a pod of orcas were spotted off the coast of Byron Bay – the most Easterly point of the Australian mainland – migrating from their home in the Antarctic to the warmer waters of Queensland.
Orcas naturally hunt humpback whales, and evidence of an attack washed up on the Byron shores just days after the sightings.
Bremer Bay – Western Australia
At the top of the food chain, orcas are commonly spotted in the seas of Western Australia between January to April each year.
Five hours south-east of Perth, The Bremer Bay Canyon is a hive of killer whale activity, and orca-watching tours headed for 70 kilometres off the coast offer a 90% sighting rate.
Humpback whales migrate from the Antarctic to the warmer waters of Queensland to give birth throughout the winter months. As predators of humpbacks, orcas are prone to following the whales to hunt their pray. With safety in numbers, pods of up to 50 humpbacks can defend each other against an orca attack.
Confirmed sightings of orcas include Fraser Island and the Sunshine Coast https://www.qt.com.au/news/yachties-killer-whale-escort-to-mooloolaba/3106795/. Knowing orcas are attracted to humpback whales; you may even be lucky enough to view killer whales on a whale-watching tour leaving from the Gold Coast.
As natural predators of the sea, killer whales are not suited to captive environments. While Sea World on the Gold Coast is a great place to see marine animals in their natural habitat, killer whales never have and won’t ever be housed in Sea World captivity.
Research into killer whales
While killer whales don’t treat humans as prey, they are top of the food chain in the water, and there’s still plenty of research required to find out more about their habitat and actions.
We know that killer whales hunt in pods of up to 40, and by studying their prey – humpback whales – we can learn a lot more about the diet, lifestyle and habits of the most feared sea mammal which goes towards the protection of the king of the sea long into the future.
To join a research tour or to find out more information about whales in general, click the following link https://seathegoldcoast.com.au/3-day-humpback-whale-research-expedition-gold-coast/