Orcas cruise Tutukaka Coast

By Mike Barrington

Two massive male orcas with up to six female and juvenile companions caught Tutukaka locals by surprise when they entered the marina to hunt stingrays about 7am yesterday.

"It was so exciting. We were squealing with delight," Kate Malcolm said.

She and other Dive Tutukaka staff watched for about 30 minutes as the orcas split into two hunting pods to feed on stingrays and mullet.

"The orcas came right into the shallows. I was about two metres away from them," Ms Malcolm said.

Orca males can grow to 8m and weigh more than six tonnes. Females are generally 5-7m and weigh up to four tonnes.

Ms Malcolm had never seen orcas inside the marina during the 14 years she had been living on the Tutukaka coast.

"It was an awesome way to start the day. They were absolutely spectacular."

Ms Malcolm said the males had dorsal fins about 2m long.

Orca expert Ingrid Visser said the male with a corkscrew dorsal fin was known as Bullet because he had been shot.

"One of the others is Flean, an adult female who has a calf and who often travels with Bullet," she said.

It was the first record of orcas so far inside the Tutukaka marina.

"There were around 15 orcas at Cape Brett at the entrance to the Bay of Islands on Wednesday afternoon, and these are likely to be the same ones," she said.

"I had a call at 8am this morning that orca were at Wellington's Bay, Ngunguru and heading along the Ngunguru sand spit - which will definitely be the same ones seen in the marina."

Ms Visser said Bullet was probably about 35 years old and Flean - whom she had first seen when she began researching oca 20 years ago - was at least 40.

She asked people to report orca sightings by calling her 0800 SEE ORCA number (0800 733 6722).

- Northern Advocate

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