Whale watching

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UNDER THREAT: The Spanish killer whales.

CIRCE, the conservation and study group concerned with whales and dolphins in southern Spain, is to launch a campaign which aims to monitor the movements and behaviour of killer whales in the Alboran Sea, Strait of Gibraltar and Gulf of Cadiz once the tuna fishing season is over.

Killer whales are often seen in the area in June, July and August, and the new study should reveal where they go once their annual interaction with tuna fishermen is over, with work set to continue until October.

The results will be passed on to the regional ministry of agriculture, food and environment, where they will be used to supplement the upcoming conservation plan for the iconic species, which is in decline.

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Satellite receivers will be attached to six individual whales in order to track their movements throughout the autumn and winter, with marine biologists currently flummoxed as to where the creatures vanish to once the tuna disappear.

What is certain is that the local whales hang around Cape Trafalgar in Cadiz from March to June, before moving into the Strait during summer, and the new information will be vital in terms of designing an effective management plan for their conservation.

Killer whales, or orcas, are actually members of the oceanic dolphin family Delphinidae, of which they are the largest species, and the highly intelligent, social animals feed on different prey depending on where they live, with the Spanish subpopulation specialising on fish.

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