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Far East Russia Orca Project expedition 2018
In 2018, we worked in Avacha Gulf from 10th of July till 17th of September. We spent in total 35 days at sea and among them 23 days when we had killer whale encounters.
Looking for killer whales - FEROP boat in Avacha Gulf
The most of the encounters were rather large aggregations of fish-eating killer whales which included more than three families. The summer 2018 seemed to be very rich in spawning salmon so killer whales spent quiet a lot of time socializing and didn’t hunt a lot. Still we managed to collect 22 samples of fish tissues and scales form killer whale hunting spots to continue our research of their feeding habits. Killer whales use different tactics to hunt fish and sometimes they don’t leave any prey pieces that we could study. We suppose that their diet could be wider than our data describes. This research direction should be developed.
AV47 after successful hunting
We also used drone to film killer whale behaviour that could be observed from the boat. We filmed several hours of social behaviour and mother-calf interactions. Once we saw how one-year old calf AV23c from Carmen’s family picked up a dead fish that was lost by other female and gave it to mother AV23. She ate the fish. Drone helps us to observe a lot of new behaviour but still we understand how little we know about these clever animals
FEROP team watching killer whale behaviour in Avacha Gulf
In total we made observations on 19 different females and their 28 calves.
Prizrak family travelling in Avacha Gulf
During season 2018 we were lucky to meet a lot of local families for several times. Abundance of killer whale families in Avacha Gulf is correlated with salmon abundance around Kamchatka. There was a slight decrease in families’ abundance after early 2000th and the death rate increased. Then in 2013-2015 we could observe only 2-4 local families and in some periods of summer killer whale were absent in the gulf. During this field season we met 19 local families (!) out of 31 that we have in our database.
Pirate's mother with her newborn baby
We were observing Nemo’s family for several days this season. Moby is a male from Nemo’s family. He was about 3-4 years old in 2004 when we met him for the first time. Now he is strong and growing fast male. His young sister AV54b was very curious child in 2004-2006. She and Moby liked to study our boat. Today AV54b is a perfect mother.
Moby - 14 years of acquaintance
AV23c is a playful and active one-year-old calf. But it has a small hump on the back.
AV23c with its mother AV23. It has a small hump on the back.
During the field season we pay a lot attention to communication with local people and tourist groups which visit the gulf for watching wild animals. Usually we give lectures and spread information on killer whale biology, our work, the problem of killer whale captures in Russia and other threats. The tourism is developing fast in Avacha Gulf and new problems appeared in the last 3 years: too many boats coming out of the city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and sometimes approach animals roughly. So we started to speak more about this problem and promote careful whale whale watching practice.
Lecture for tourists
Goosly and whalewatchers in Avacha Gulf