In a relatively rare occurrence, a school of four to five false killer whales was sighted off the coast of Herzliya in central Israel on Friday.
False killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens) are dolphins, and they are usually found in tropical waters. Their name is based on the similarity of their skulls to killer whales, or orcas, which are themselves part of the dolphin family.
Some six meters (almost 20 feet) long and coal-gray in color, the false killer whale is not aggressive toward humans.
It was the second such sighting this year, said Dr. Aviad Scheinin, director of the Marine Apex Predator Lab at the Morris Kahn Marine Research Station at Haifa University’s Charny School of Marine Sciences.
The first was off the southern coast of Ashkelon.
Scheinin noted that over the past three years, this species of dolphin has been observed closer to the coast than before.
Sheinin and Dr. Kirsten Thompson of Greenpeace’s Scientific Unit at the UK’s Exeter University led a research project last year to try to document mammals present in Israel’s deep-sea economic waters, located up to 200 marine miles (370 kilometers) from the Mediterranean coast.
They combined observation with the use of hydrophones to acoustically identify the mammals.
They found evidence of endangered sperm whales, vulnerable Cuvier’s beaked whales, and species of dolphin, prompting calls to abandon further gas and oil exploration, or to at least carry out further research before such exploration begins.
In addition to oil and gas extraction, intensive shipping takes place in Israel’s economic waters. Marine mammals are exposed to strikes by ships and fishing vessels, ingestion of marine debris, and underwater noise from seismic surveys and military operations.
Environmental activists are fighting to nix the Energy Ministry’s latest tender for fossil fuel exploration over 6,000 square kilometers (2,315 square miles) of the seabed.