A pair of killer whales affectionately known as Port and Starboard have been spotted in Simon’s Town after a brief absence following their shark rampage that brought them to fame in late 2015 and 2016.
In 2015 and 2016, the two killer whales were spotted near an area where a number of broadnose sevengill sharks were found dead with their livers removed. They are identifiable by their bent dorsal fins and seem to always travel together.
They have also been blamed for the recent absence of sharks in the False Bay area, as these apex predators are known to hunt sharks together – with this particular pair appearing to do so more often than most.
The orcas seem to now be calling Cape Town home and have been spotted in the area more frequently over the years, becoming a local favourite.
The most recent sighting was on February 5 at Seal Island and local company African Shark Eco-Charters was there and “Shark Legend” Rob Lawrence was the first to spot them. This is reportedly the second sighting in five months.
What does this mean for Cape Town’s shark population?
The arrival of a new predator could cause the high population of both sevengill and great white sharks to move out of the area in an effort to avoid being hunted.
Scientists are concerned that this may lead to a natural decline in shark species in the area. In a case in the Aleutian archipelago between 1990 and 1997, orcas began targeting sea otters in the area and caused a massive decline in their numbers along the archipelago. This had a knock-on effect as sea urchin (sea otter’s preferred food) populations exploded. As sea urchins’ primary food is kelp, this increase resulted in the deforestation of kelp forests in the region.
Sharks form an important part of the ocean food chain, acting as essential predators to maintain diverse and healthy ecosystems, because of this a loss of these fearsome fish could have significant impacts on our oceans.