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Distressed family of trapped Orca whale stays until he's freed

By Marcus Hondro     Aug 24, 2014 in Science
The family of a young Orca whale who became tangled in a fisherman's net near Port Hardy in B.C. stayed by his side until he was freed. The Orca's mom, two siblings, an aunt and two of his cousins stuck near, making sounds indicating their concern.
Though it took him some time the fisherman managed to free the young whale, who is from a pod labelled I15, but not until there was concern it might die. Nicole Mackay of Mackay Whale Watching was nearby in one of her boats and heard a radio call for help to free the Orca. She was able to get on scene quickly and told CBC News in Canada that she was worried the whale might not make it.
"Watching all this happen was really quite terrifying, especially when the young one went under for about 12 minutes, because typically they hold their breath for about five." she said. "It's a very rare thing. I never want to see it again."
With her hydrophone under the water she was able to hear the sounds the Orca pod was making as they surrounded the fishing boat and their trapped family member and said they were not their usual sounds. She told the CBC that they "weren't their typical calls" but were calls that clearly indicated a high level of distress.
The trapped Orca, recorded as Orca I103, was getting support from his family the entire time, as they not only 'bobbed' their heads up and over the surface of the water when I103 was on the surface, but family members stayed underwater with it during that 12-minute period of time the net prevented it from getting back to the surface.
The fisherman, working feverishly, was relieved when he was finally able to cut the young Orca completely free from his fishing net. The freed Orca and family left the area of the fishing boat but whale researchers on the scene observed them for a time and judged all to be okay.
"That family bond that those Orcas have is so strong that they would not leave that whale," Ms. Mackay said. "When it went down, they went down with it. It was really quite moving and terrifying at the same time."
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