A pod of between four to five false killer whale dolphins was spotted off the coast of Herzliya over the weekend.
The rare footage was captured by Tomer, Uri and Zohar from the Derech Hayam club in Herzliya and was shared through the Society for the Protection of Nature's SeaWatch application, and eventually reached the Delphis – a non-profit Israeli organization for the protection and research of marine mammals in Israel.
"The dolphins we encountered were different from those we usually come across," the three of them said. "They were darker, larger and had a distinct and thick snout. We had never seen ones like them before. It was very exciting. We knew it was important to report it so that others could acknowledge the sighting."
Dr. Aviad Scheinin, head of the Dolphin & Sea Center educational center of the Delphis organization, said that the false killer whale is relatively rare in the Mediterranean Sea, and the most recent sightings of of the sea mammal are from the eastern Mediterranean. It is a close relative of the killer whale, or orca, and measures about six meters in length, with a dark charcoal-black color.
"The exciting report that was also transferred to Delphis is the second report of a false killer whale sighting so far in 2023. False killer whale sightings in Israel are not common, and Delphis receives few reports each year. The interesting change we are witnessing is that, in the past, the sightings were far from the shore and, in the last three years, there have been reports from near the coast," added Scheinin.
The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel notes that a new plan to protect the deep sea has recently been launched, which is expected to go into effect in 2030, and is primarily aimed at safeguarding 30% of Israel's marine territory. The plan was adopted by the Minister of Environmental Protection Idit Silman, and was composed in collaboration with the Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Nature and Parks Authority, the Antiquities Authority, the University of Haifa, the Leon H. Charney School of Marine Sciences at the University of Haifa, the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research Institute, Tel Aviv University and the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History.
Hadas Gann-Perkal, the SeaWatch Coordinator, added that the documentation of the dolphin pod off the coast of Herzliya demonstrates that there is biological diversity worthy of protection off Israel's sea coast. "The exclusive economic zone of Israel in the Mediterranean Sea spans 21,000 square kilometers, equivalent in size to the country's land territory," she said.
"This entire deep-sea area is inhabited by dolphins, whales, sea turtles and other fish species, and acts as a breeding ground for bluefin tuna and deep-sea sharks. Within this space, there are complex and unique ecosystems; however, despite this, it is precisely there that development pressures are growing: The Ministry of Energy's intentions to expand gas exploration and infrastructure for its export; destructive fishing; and plans for additional economic development, such as renewable energy and marine agriculture," she said.