Some hotels advised against sea swimming after orcas spotted in Abu Dhabi waters

Killer whales pose little threat to humans, but people urged not to approach the animals

Abu Dhabi warns public against sea swimming after two killer whales spotted

Abu Dhabi warns public against sea swimming after two killer whales spotted
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Some hotels have been advised to stop all beach swimming for the next two days after a group of fishermen sighted two orcas off the emirate's coast on Tuesday.

The environmental health and safety unit at Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism sent an email, obtained by The National, to some hotel operators, noting the sighting of the killer whales and advising them against activities in the sea.

St Regis Saadiyat residents were also sent a memo advising them that the beach would be closed until Friday.

"We have been notified by the relevant authorities of the presence of a killer whale in the waters along the Abu Dhabi coast," the email said.

Advice "has been given to cease all swimming and water access for the next two days, starting immediately".

"Hence, the residence beach will be closed today and tomorrow," the St Regis said.

Well-travelled wildlife

While killer whales are not normally considered a threat to human beings, the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency urged people not to approach the orcas, which are among the most well-travelled of marine wildlife.

“Orcas are usually not a threat to humans, however, we urge the public to keep a safe distance when spotting [them] and alert the Abu Dhabi government call centre on 800555,” the agency said on Instagram.

The agency added that although the latest sighting is rare, orcas are not infrequent visitors to Abu Dhabi waters.

Maitha Al Hameli, manager of marine assessment and conservation at Abu Dhabi Environment Agency, said the recent sighting of the mammals is a testament to the quality of the waters in the emirate.

“The whales in Abu Dhabi waters are a testament to the health of marine life because of [several] sources of food,” Ms Al Hameli told Emirates TV.

"This is a result of continued efforts from Abu Dhabi Environment Agency to protect the biodiversity and implementing legislation for fishing as well as programmes to protect the marine wildlife.

“Orca is on top of the food chain. The existence of killer whales is important for environmental balance. The orca is a very smart animal and feeds on fish, whales and other sea species.”

She asked people not to panic if they see a killer whale in the sea, but not to get too close.

“Every year more people are sighting the orca in UAE waters. They need to be careful and avoid getting close to the whale,” she added.

Thrilling experience

A group of fisherman on a fishing trip captured footage of the pair of orcas surrounding a dugong and shared it on social media.

Ahmed Afify, who was on a trip with a group of five fishermen, said they were thrilled to experience the rare sighting.

“It was an unforgettable moment and wonderful experience,” he told The National on Wednesday.

"Our group [Just Fishing] aims to highlight Abu Dhabi as a fishing destination for international anglers seeking sports fishing."

Orcas are the largest members of the dolphin family and one of the world's most powerful predators.

They are found primarily in the north-east Atlantic around the Norwegian coast, as well as the North Pacific and the coast of Antarctica.

But they can be spotted in most oceans around the world and have adapted to cooler climates as well as the warmer waters of the Middle East.

Updated: May 11, 2023, 6:24 AM