Commercial fishermen are losing their catch to thieving sperm whales.
Sperm whales are the ocean’s largest predators, and when they want your fish, there is little you can do about it.
Reports of sperm whales stealing fish from long line fishermen are becoming more and more common.
Watch the video to see how they do it.
Sperm whales have been stealing black cod from fishermen since the 1970s. However, a sharp rise in whale depredation began in the mid 90s. Today, whale depredation costs fisherman hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.
Two factors have contributed to the sharp rise in sperm whale depredation. First, the fishing season for black cod has been extended from two weeks to eight months. Second, commercial whaling has been banned.
The sperm whales use echolocation, or SONAR, to determine the location of fishing boats and when they are hauling in lines. The sound of a boat changing gears to haul up lines is like a dinner bell to the whales and they can detect it from several miles away.
Up to ten whales have been spotted near fishing boats, leading scientists to believe that depredation is socially transmitted between the whales. One whale has been spotted so many times he has earned the nickname “Jack the Stripper.”
Fishermen have teamed up with scientists from SEASWAP in an attempt to solve the problem. Problem whales have been tagged with GPS tracking devices. Fishermen can then check their whereabouts online before deciding to drop lines in the area.
Lauren Wild of SEASWAP stated,
I don’t know if there’s one answer to the depredation issue but I think being informed and aware of how these animals are behaving are all important to really get a grasp on what they’re doing and how they’re doing it in order to prevent it.
For now, these long line fishermen will have to do their best to avoid sperm whales.