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Killer whales recognize boats, 'harass' fishermen, steal fish

Staff Writer | June 21, 2017
Pods of killer whales are "harassing" fishermen in Alaska, forcing them to leave the area and lose 20,000 to 30,000 pounds of fish per day.
Killer whale
Protecting food   Killer whales surround the boat
"It's kind of like a primordial struggle," fisherman Buck Laukitis told the Anchorage Daily News.

"It comes at a real cost."

Fishermen say killer whales in the Bering Sea are able to recognize certain fishing boats.

Pods of up to 50 whales or more will then swoop in and strip the fishermens' hooks clean.

They sometimes then surround the boat or chase it down if it tries to move to another area.

"The pod tracked me 30 miles north of the edge and 35 miles west (while) I drifted for 18 hours up there with no machinery running and they just sat with me," fisherman Robert Hanson wrote in a letter to the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council.

Hanson wrote that his crew was "harassed nonstop."

They have not been the only ones.

Fisherman Michael Offerman told the National Post that he has also been stalked by whales. "I've had the same sperm whale follow me 70 miles," he said.

Killer whale depradation – the act of killer whales taking fish off of fishermens' lines – has been a known problem for some time in the fishing industry.