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White killer whale observed off Russia - Images and video

26/04/2012 11:11:22

Is 'Iceberg' the first ever adult albino Orca? © E.Lazareva/FEROP 2012

First all-white orca bull ever observed off the Far East Russian Coast


April 2012: In the North Pacific, east of the Kamchatka Peninsula near the Commander Islands, the first-ever adult all-white, probably albino, orca bull has been observed by scientists from the universities in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

The scientists of this international science project, studying acoustic and social complexity in whale and dolphin populations in the region, called this unique orca "Iceberg" after they saw his towering 2-metre white dorsal fin breaking the surface.

Iceberg has been found to live in a family unit, also called a pod, with 12 relatives. His pod is one of 61 identified social orca units in the region based on 12 years of research by the Far East Russia Orca Project (FEROP).

Russia's largest marine reserve
The area around the Commander Islands, where Iceberg was first seen, is protected as Russia's largest marine reserve. There are plans to expand it, and the scientists are suggesting that it should form part of a network of reserves to give protection to the critical habitat of various whale, dolphin and porpoise species off eastern Russia.

Iceberg traveling with his family off the commander islands, Russia. © E.Lazareva/FEROP 2012

Iceberg traveling with his family off the commander islands, Russia. © E.Lazareva/FEROP 2012

Such a call is in response to local overfishing in some areas, and increased oil and gas exploration, which poses a threat to marine mammals from increasing noise levels, ship traffic and potential oil spills. As noise levels increase, the ability of whales to communicate over long distances may be compromised.

"In many ways, Iceberg is a symbol of all that is pure, wild and extraordinarily exciting about what is out there in the ocean waiting to be discovered," says Erich Hoyt, FEROP co-director.

"The challenge is to keep the ocean healthy so that such surprises are always possible."

To learn more about orcas in Russian waters (English and Russian):

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