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‘Where do Strait’s orcas go after tuna season?’

The Campo cetacean conservation group CIRCE is poised to launch a two-month monitoring campaign to gather information on orcas in the Strait of Gibraltar following the closure of the Bluefin tuna season in Spain.

Killer whales feed on tuna and interact with commercial fishermen while the tuna season is open.

But CIRCE said understanding their movements after this interaction is essential in order to put in place adequate conservation plans.

“This campaign seeks to establish what the whales do after their interaction with fishermen,” CIRCE said.

The group’s research will be handed to Spain Environment Ministry and will factor in its conservation plan for the strait, which itself is largely based on research by CIRCE investigator Dr Ruth Esteban.

Satellite trackers will be placed on six individual whales to monitor their movements during autumn and winter.

“We want to understand where they go and what they do when there is no tuna fishing in the strait,” Dr Esteban said.

“Where do they hunt? Do they remain in this area or move elsewhere?”

“This information is vital for the conservation plan.”

“We know what they eat, but we don’t know where they eat once autumn arrives and we need more data about this.”

So far researchers have established that the orcas spend March through to June off Cape Trafalgar, travelling down to the Strait of Gibraltar from June to August.