Killer Whales

UNDATED (AP) - It was a fish story that even veteran boat captains found fascinating. As many as 200 killer whales fed on tuna in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Capt. Eddie Hall of the 60-foot charter boat Shady Lady says "It was like being at Sea World because they'd come right up to the boat."

It was also hard for some skeptics to believe: Orcas, as killer whales are also known, typically are thought to live in cold water and eat seals.

Scientist Keith Mullin explained at a public meeting in Orange Beach, Ala., that contrary to common perceptions killer whales really do live in the Gulf, far from land.
Mullin says scientists believe the whales have been in the Gulf for years. He says their presence, although startling to some anglers, isn't a sign of climate change or other manmade condition. Their relatively small population and the speed at which pods move make them difficult to count, which could have led to lower estimates.

Hall told The Associated Press on Monday that the Shady Lady was
95 miles off the coast of Alabama when athe marine mammals were
spotted feeding near an offshore rig in water more than a mile deep.

Fifteen groups of killer whales have been sighted in the Gulf since deep-water surveys began in 1992. Past estimates have varied widely, from a low of 49 to a high of 277 living in the Gulf north of a line extending from Key West, Fla., to Brownsville, Texas.

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