Japanese freediver hunts out orcas to film and swim with

A documentary filmed on Northland's coast will highlight to Japanese viewers the need to conserve orcas and the amazing relationship between the massive mammals and humans in their natural sea environment.

The Japanese film crew are cruising Northland's coast hoping to capture footage of a world record freediver swimming with orcas for a 74-minute documentary aimed at educating Japanese about the mighty orca.

Northland's orca expert Ingrid Visser is working with the crew who approached her about eight months ago with the idea of making the documentary.

Fronting the documentary is freediving Guinness World record holder Ai Futaki, of Japan, who has made a name for herself as a videographer, model, and documentary maker.

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Ms Futaki was born in western Kanazawa, near the Japan Sea. This is her first trip to New Zealand waters.

Ms Futaki gets much closer to the creatures she encounters because she becomes part of their environment as a freediver, who can actively swim underwater for up to three minutes. Without moving she can remain under water for six minutes.

"I'm simply there to share the interaction and let people decide.

"I want them to see how I communicate with these animals and if there is a change it has to come from the heart."

In 2011 Ms Futaki set two Guinness world records in an underground cave in Mexico.

She was awarded the longest distance in a cave with fins with only one breath by swimming 100m Ms Futaki was the first woman in the world to do that and without fins, she recorded a distance of 90m becoming the first person to do this for a Guinness record of longest distance in a cave.

Dr Visser hoped the documentary would have more impact with the Japanese audience if it was fronted and produced by a Japanese crew.

"They have orcas in captivity but this will help them learn about them living in the wild and that they should not be kept in tanks," Dr Visser said.

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"I think they will be fascinated with what is filmed because it's something new for most Japanese people to see. Being able to have someone swim with them will be a great way to get the conservation message across.

Dr Visser said she had obtained a special permit from the Department of Conservation that allowed the freediver to get close up with the orca. It had involved dealing with iwi from Auckland to Cape Reinga and they had all agreed.

The crew are staying at Tutukaka and are on high alert for any orca sightings. Dr Visser also wants the public to phone in any whale sightings on the Northland Coast as the film crew are here until September 5.

They have had two call outs after reports of orcas in the Bay of Islands and in the Whangarei Harbour on Thursday. They are yet to get any footage as the orcas were elusive.

If you can help the crew and see orcas or any whale off the Northland coast contact Dr Visser on 0800 SEE ORCA.