Sperm Whales Follow Longline Fishing Vessels to Plunder Meals

by Owen James Burke

SEAK Sperm whale

Photo via BBC

Longline fishing, in which lines up to 5 miles long are set with interspersed baited hooks, has been a highly debated method of large-scale fishing because it reports a high rate of by catch, mainly other cetaceans, sea turtles, sharks and other unwanted fish species.

Conversely, Sperm whales have learned to take advantage of the industry. Tracking fishing boats and distressed fish with echolocation, they’re able to snatch free meals by bending fish off of hooks using their long, muscular jaws.

benthook

Above: A fisherman holds a bent, empty hook, duped yet again by the wily sperm whale. Photo: Jane Atkins/BBC

The behavior, which is termed “depredation,” was first reported off Alaska in the 1970s, but according to at least one skipper of a black cod fishing vessel, they’ve been getting better and better each year.

 Read more on BBC — OJB

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