Ex-Orca Hunter Releases Rare Footage Of Whale Captures
Never-before-seen footage of orca whale captures has just been released by a former orca hunter. On Anderson Cooper's "AC360," Jeff Foster, who now works on projects to rescue whales, shared footage of himself and others capturing young orcas off the coast of Iceland.
Foster, who captured "a couple dozen" orcas from 1972 to 1990, told CNN that orcas are one of the most expensive animals in the world, besides a racehorse. He said that over time he became more unhappy with capturing the animals for display in marine parks like SeaWorld.
"They cry just like a baby's crying," said Foster. "It tugged at your heart."
Several of the whales at SeaWorld were captured in the waters off Iceland, including Tilikum, the infamous whale who was involved in the deaths of three people. He was captured in Berufjörður off the east coast of Iceland in 1983, when he was two years old. A female orca named Katina, now living at SeaWorld Orlando, a male named Ulises at SeaWorld San Diego and a female named Kiska at Marineland in Canada were all captured in Iceland as well. Other Icelandic whales live at the Port of Nagoya Aquarium in Japan.
Foster says he was recently offered $7 million by Chinese buyers to capture eight orcas off the coast of Russia. Two of the animals were reportedly intended for display in the Sochi Olympics. But after seeing so many animals taken from their tight-knit family groups, Foster couldn't participate, despite the hefty paycheck. "It got to that point where, literally, I was looking in the mirror, and I went in and said I can't do this," he told CNN's Ivan Watson, adding that orca tanks have changed very little since the 1980s, despite advancements for other species. "Killer whale tanks haven't really changed over 30 years."
In fact, these captures have been going on without him for some time. The Russian government issued a quota allowing captors to apply for permits to catch a total of 10 orca whales in the Okhotsk Sea in 2014.
The VDNKh exhibition center in Moscow is now holding this second pair: a 7-year-old, 2.5-ton female whale named Narnia and an unnamed 5-year-old, 1.5-ton male.
Capturing orcas from the wild can be a difficult undertaking. For reference, here is footage, featured in the documentary "Blackfish," showing how orcas tried to evade their captors by separating into two groups to distract them.