Human Interest

Pod of orcas trapped in ice off Japan coast

Tokyo, Feb 7 (EFE).- A pod of around 15 orcas has been reported trapped in ice floes off the coast of the Shiretoko peninsula, Hokkaido, northern Japan, according to the town’s coast guard.

A fisherman and the NGO Wildlife Pro LLC warned on Tuesday morning that orcas appeared to be struggling to get out of a gap in the ice about a kilometer off the coast of the town of Rausu.

In total, 15 orcas were sighted, the NGO told EFE Wednesday, describing the situation as sad as the thickness of the ice was preventing coast guard boats getting close enough to help the whales.

Seiichiro Tsuchiya, a member of Wildlife Pro LLC, noticed the mammals while researching the local sea lion population in the area.

He said they had some calves with them, and were sticking their heads out of a hole in the ice and seemed to be struggling to breathe.

The authorities of the town of Rausu said they had no choice but to wait for the ice to break up, according to public broadcaster NHK.

The orcas could not be sighted during an inspection of the area on Wednesday and the Rausu authorities said they hoped they had escaped as the gap in the drift ice had opened up.

Mari Kobayashi, professor of marine mammalogy at Tokyo University of Agriculture, told Kyodo news agency that orcas, staying together in the area in order to protect their calves, can end up slowly dying of exhaustion.

In 2005, a number of orcas died after becoming trapped in drift ice in Rausu. EFE

mca/tw

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