Orca in Napier shallows: ‘The fin shaking is him ripping the prey apart’

A local man got the birthday present of a lifetime after spotting a pod of orca just metres from a Hawke’s Bay beach.

With as many as five believed to have been in the group, the animals travelled north along Napier’s Westshore coastline on Monday morning.

Ben Simmons spotted the animals “ambling at walking pace” about 10 metres from the shoreline, with one orca coming within five metres of the beach.

The astonished local said the pod appeared opposite Hot Chick & Cool Cat on Hardinge Rd, Ahuriri, towards the end of The Esplanade in Westshore, before disappearing back out to sea.

“They appeared to periodically chase something right up to the sand, beaching themselves before wiggling back to the deeper water,” he said. “It was a really incredible sight.

“It wasn’t scary – they were just majestic. However, my chihuahua Eli was trying to go in for a swim and I felt that wasn’t a great idea.

“It’s my birthday today so it was the best present ever,” Simmons added.

Orca Research Trust founder Dr Ingrid Visser said the group were likely hunting for prey, with the predominant orca in Simmon’s video an adult male.

“It’s quite common for orca to come right into the surf break, sometimes even surfing alongside surfers, as they hunt for rays and sometimes little sharks,” she said.

“The male definitely has something already – the fin shaking that you see is him ripping the prey apart.”

“There is no danger to the public – the biggest risk is actually to the animals themselves and making sure they don’t get stuck,” she added.

The newest sightings come just over two weeks after a group of recreational fishermen saved an exhausted young orca off the coast of Waipatiki after it tangled itself in a cray pot line.

Visser said it is not yet clear if Monday’s sighting is linked to the previous group of orca.

“We’re trying to track down more photos and videos to learn if it was the animal that was entangled recently,” she said.

“We haven’t had any sightings of that one since, so we’re very keen to gather any information on this group just in case.”

Visser is seeking photos or video of orca from Monday or recently to help monitor the group. Sightings can be reported to 0800 SEE ORCA.

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