Orcas gasping for breath and struggling to break free from the ice. These are heartbreaking scenes currently occurring off the coast of Japan. It is not possible to save the killer whales, local media reported. We have to wait for the ice to break.
The Guardian, Daily Mail, NHK
look. Trapped killer whales gasp for breath off the Japanese coast
It was a fisherman who noticed a group of killer whales off the coast of Rawso in the north of the country and notified the Coast Guard. Drone footage was also captured on Tuesday by a private company surveying sea lion populations in the area.
The scientist who captured the scene, Seichiro Tsuchiya, says he believes more than 10 animals are trapped. He also counted three to four young killer whales. “They had a lot of difficulty breathing,” he says.
The largest cetaceans can spend long periods underwater, but killer whales generally stay underwater for only a few minutes.
Animals have a hole measuring ten square meters at most. The group constantly jumps up and down to break free from the ice onto a completely white plain. But the large pieces of ice barely move.
Local media reported that due to the thickness of the ice, it was impossible for the icebreaker to reach the scene of the accident. “We have no choice but to wait until the ice breaks and they can escape this way,” a city official told NHK. But it remains to be seen whether the ice will break in time.
In 2005, a similar incident occurred in Rawso, when another group got stuck in the ice. Most of the animals did not survive the ordeal.
The sea off the coast of eastern Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan's four main islands, is covered in floating ice every winter. The amount of ice has decreased in recent years due to rising sea temperatures due to climate change. But that doesn't change the fact that animals can get into big trouble. Furthermore, there is currently almost no wind in the area, meaning the ice floes rarely move.
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