The orca wars escalate, with special reference to the economics of fisheries

The orcas will wait all day for a fisher to accumulate a catch of halibut, and then deftly rob them blind. They will relentlessly stalk individual fishing boats, sometimes forcing them back into port.

Most chilling of all, this is new: After decades of relatively peaceful coexistence with cod and halibut fishers off the coast of Alaska, the region’s orcas appear to be turning on them in greater numbers.

“We’ve been chased out of the Bering Sea,” said Paul Clampitt, Washington State-based co-owner of the F/V Augustine.

Like many boats, the Augustine has tried electronic noisemakers to ward off the animals, but the orcas simply got used to them.

“It became a dinner bell,” said Clampitt.

John McHenry, owner of the F/V Seymour, described orca pods near Alaska’s Aleutian Islands as being like a “motorcycle gang.”

“You’d see two of them show up, and that’s the end of the trip. Pretty soon all 40 of them would be around you,” he said.

A report this week in the Alaska Dispatch News outlined instances of aggressive orcas harassing boats relentlessly — even refusing to leave after a desperate skipper cut the engine and drifted silently for 18 hours.

These are not Coasean orcas, or are they?  And sperm whales are now in on the act:

Fishing lines are also being pillaged by sperm whales, the large square-headed whale best known as the white whale in Moby Dick.

“Since 1997, reports of depredation have increased dramatically,” noted a report by the Southeast Alaska Sperm Whale Avoidance Project.

A remarkable 2006 video by the Avoidance Project captured one of the 50,000 kg whales delicately shaking fish loose from a line. After a particularly heavy assault by sperm whales, fishers are known to pull up lines in which up to 90 per cent of the catch has disappeared or been mangled.

Here is the full story, with video, and further points of interest.  For the pointer I thank the excellent Mark Thorson.


I suppose killing orcas is out of the question? I bet that would solve the problem pretty quickly.

Well the Orcas are smart enough to know that humans have overfished pretty much everywhere else so attacking fishing boats is probably the best strategy they have at this point.

The Alaskan fisheries are not overfished, and are some of the best managed in the world - 'Amidst the many fisheries that struggle with overexploitation, the management of the Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis) fishery can be considered a model of sustainability. A large species of flatfish capable of growing up to 8 ft long and reaching 500 lbs, Pacific halibut live on the sea floor along the continental shelf of the north Pacific. The International Pacific Halibut Commission, or IPHC for short, is an international organization established through a treaty between the United States and Canada in 1923 to manage populations of Pacific halibut from the coast of California up to the Bering Sea in Alaska.'

Whether the orcas are refugees, so to speak, is another question. In which case, one can count on a large number of MR commenters decrying the lack or proper maritime borders while mocking Prof. Cowen and Prof. Tabarrok for apparently supporting the idea that the oceans are borderless.

Refugees seems likely. They do seem to move around a lot. Difficult to be certain, of course.

And rereading, I see you may actually know that the Alaskan halibut fisheries are not overfished.

Trump has yet to tweet on this question. But I could be wrong about that.

Well, the problem there is that first he tweeted he had 'tapes' of the orcas, then the orcas released their notes to the press, and now Trump has tweeted something along the lines that not only does he not (any longer at least) have 'tapes,' but that apparently someone like Obama continues to keep him under surveillance.

The orcas are too smart to waste their time on such immensely entertaining antics - there are tasty American fish waiting to be eaten, after all.

The orcas have us all under observation.

Dont worry, when he does you can count on Anonymous to tell us we are not shitting our pants about it enough.

Hell no. Shoot them. Cut them up into steaks and sell it as faux-tuna.

Call in the Japanese to do some "scientific reasearch."

"Hell no. Shoot them. Cut them up into steaks and sell it as faux-tuna."

+1, sushi

More like beef, they are mammals not fish.

It's a trivial problem. The article says $500 a day, or $182,500 a year.

Then again, if you're bloody-minded enough that your first thought is "kill them", I'm probably not going to talk you out of it.

$500 per day per boat is not trivial. What do we do if wolves are attacking cattle? Historically, we would shoot them, right? Orcas are smart, we probably wouldn't have to kill very many.

Orcas are smart and social. Kill one, the rest will leave. They come back kill another. Works with crows and wolves should work with whales. A few dead whales are a small price to pay to keep families in business.
Course SJW's will say whales count more than people. Not them of course, just those other people they don't know.

Black & White Lives Matter

There's actually a comparable story of keeping another charismatic, intelligent megafauna out of our food - elephants. Elephants are increasingly being effectively kept out of African farms by fences of bees, or so the Economist tells me -

The fishermen will figure it out.

Why nobody has pointed out that all these orcas and sperm whales have been trained by the Russians beats me.

Actually they are undocumented Orcas.

And Moslem.

Which explains why they usually do not eat pork. Or are they Jews?

Karma is a beautiful! :)

“We’ve been chased out of the Bering Sea"
Coward. Go back there and fight.

And to think they used to help us kill their brethren:

"Well? Just because you stopped whaling doesn't mean you can go back on the deal. So we're here for our share of the food you catch, including back-catch for all those years you didn't pay up."

Once a traitor, always a traitor.

"“Well? Just because you stopped whaling doesn’t mean you can go back on the deal."

Fisherman: Yeah, but it doesn't mean we can't go back on our deal either.

The orcas are colluding with the Russians to take us down. It is all part of their diabolical plan to remove humans as the top predator.

That's okay. The domesticated animals know that if somebody else is in charge, they'll be rapidly liquidated. A milk cow might not know much, but it won't choose being run down by a pack of wolves on the prairie over regular feeding. And the wild commensals don't want to suffer loss of habitat or food sources either; you know which way the raccoons will vote. If we keep destroying the habitat of the others, then the inevitable demographic shift favors us entirely.

So you want to elect a new ecosystem.

We've been doing that for millennia, why change a winning program?

Profiting from the labor of others. Orcas must be Republicans.

Does Spock have a goatee in your world?

Or are they lawyers?

Actually, being undocumented, interested in a free lunch and stealing the hard work of honest individuals I would say they were Bernie Saunders voting democrats.

I can more easily see the orcas cast in the role of Native Americans or some other dispossessed groups.

Fascinating how these predatory marine mammals give humans a pass. Dolphins are like that, too, but don't let that Flipper smile fool you, these predators are smart, stone-cold killers.

It's like they recognize something like that in humans too. Respect.

This is ♪ what ♬ demorcacy ♪ looks like

Can't make that shit up. Fascinating planet.

What's the value of the marginal orca?

What's the value of the marginal human being?

I'll consider the question when I can compare the human version of Facebook to the Orca version.

Actually, Orcas are so smart they have no Facebook.

Short version:

Orcas are very smart, and learn from each other. The Cultural Life of Whales and Dolphins, a book I read on Tyler's recommendation some time ago, explains it well.

That does mean that you probably would not have to kill very many of them to get them to stop.

I don't know what's worse in this thread: the attempted jokes or the political metaphors.

It's the rise of the orc-right, they suddenly feel empowered.

It's the fall of the old man of the sea, beside the stagnating coral reefs.

Is this something new...Orcas and fishing boats have been around for a long time?

The second paragraph of the article (and of Tyler's snippet of it) say this:

"Most chilling of all, this is new: After decades of relatively peaceful coexistence with cod and halibut fishers off the coast of Alaska, the region’s orcas appear to be turning on them in greater numbers."

Score one for Lucas.

They should be able to use the sperm whales against the Orcas. Any properly trained full size sperm whale should be able to take out an Orca. We just need do domesticate them like wolfhounds.

It sounds to me like there are now enough of at least those two species of whale, that listing them as endangered is no longer justified. I would like to see an educational effort about this aimed at the public, followed by pressure on EPA to de-list them.

As for hunting the whales -- in a direct sense it would be a waste (because there probably isn't much of a market for whale meat or whale oil even if legalized, unless it's Japan and/or Norway which never stopped whaling). But most types of whale have no natural enemies except the orca, and I don't think the orca has any at all. So humanity is stuck with the job. I suggest auctioning off a number of hunting licenses each year, to be decided based on population estimates.

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