Photos of Savai'i killer whales believed to be first for Samoa

The orcas spotted off the coast of Savai'i this week may be the first photographed in Samoa, the Government believes.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (M.N.R.E) said orcas have reportedly been sighted in Samoan waters before but not photographed.

"The orcas (killer whales) are found in all oceans of the world and have been reported to be seen in Samoa in previous surveys, but this is the first time that we have actual pictures of the orcas photographed in Samoa confirming that they are found in our waters," the spokesperson said.

The lucky tourists who spotted the orca are Chief Raewyn Rautahi, Herepaenga Witehira, Vic Pearsey, and Leah Russell from Bluff and Invercargill in New Zealand.

They are keen fishers and work as oyster openers, or shuckers, of Wild Bluff Oysters in New Zealand's Foveaux Strait.

The group were on a chartered fishing trip with Stevensons at Manas about three miles or 4.8 kilometers off the coast of Safotu when the two orca swam right up to their boat.

"We never expected to see orca, it was my biggest dream," Ms. Rautahi said.

"The sighting of of the orca was not just amazing but spectacular and this experience was just breathtaking and unexpected.

"None of us have ever seen these whales before."

According to the M.N.R.E whales and dolphins migrate to warm tropical waters between August and November.

They travel from their Antarctic feeding grounds to the warmer waters of the Pacific to give birth.

"Samoa makes up part of the breeding grounds for these marine mammals.

"Samoa also has resident whale and dolphins that can be found the whole year in Samoa like spinner dolphins, sperm whales and short-finned pilot whales," the spokesperson added.

"The reported peak months are September and October."

Ministry for Natural Resources and Environment data shows orca whales are one of 12 species of whales and dolphins that swim through Samoan waters. 

Orcas are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of endangered species, listed as low in numbers but without enough data on their status.

The Red List reports there is no action recovery plan or systematic monitoring scheme in place for orcas, and they are threatened by several threats, including shipping, fishing, agricultural and industrial pollution and climate change.

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