A file photo of a killer whale near Fraser Island in July 2013.
A file photo of a killer whale near Fraser Island in July 2013. Sea World

You may not see them, but orcas visit Northern Rivers coast

THE close encounter between fishermen and killer whales off Coffs Harbour last week may not be so unusual, with sightings of the intelligent mammal reported all over Australia - even the Northern Territory.

Passengers aboard a fishing charter vessel off the Coffs Coast late last week were amazed to watch a close battle of survival play out at sea, seeing a killer whale attacking a humpback and its calf.

The sighting was made off Coffs Harbour on Thursday and it appeared the humpback was able to protect the calf from the orca after a tense tussle.

Evans Head weapons range officers have reported their activities in the past, and two orcas were seen rushing balls of baitfish at Airforce Beach, Evans Head a couple of years ago.

Meanwhile, photos of a pod of orcas were captured at Hervey Bay in 2013.

Of course, killer whales are a regular feature off the coast of Western Australia and along the coasts of South Australia and Victoria.

Tourists on a shark-watching vessel in South Australia witnessed a pod of killer whales mauling a large great white to death.

But there is some guesswork involved in why they actually appear way up here, in the sub-tropics, when they really thrive in the freezing waters of the Antarctic.

US-based marine scientist John Durban was part of a team that tagged orcas off Graham land in the Antarctic only to find they made a round-trip to the southern coast of Brazil and back in under 50 days.

At that rate they travelled more than 200km a day - making a bee-line for warmer waters and back again with apparently no time to calve or much time to feed.

Mr Durban surmised that perhaps the killer whales travelled north to warm water in a bid to cleanse their skin.
Whatever the case, they are here off our shores and likely to visit again.

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