Four black beaked whales – a new species – spotted off the coast of Rausu

Black beaked whales (Berardius minimus), a species newly confirmed in the town of Rausu in the Shiretoko area of eastern Hokkaido in 2019, have been photographed off the coast by a guide on a tourist boat from the town. The four whales were photographed and videoed surfacing before diving back down beneath the waves.
 
The whales are black and approximately 6 meters long, which is smaller than the giant beaked whales that inhabit the Sea of Okhotsk and the Japan Sea. Research began in 2008 when a carcass was found on the coast in the city of Kitami, and the whale was identified as a new species in the summer of 2019.
 
The whales were photographed by Ms. Sugita, a member of staff at the ‘Shiretoko-Rausu Cruise Hamanasu’ company. During a cruise on May 5, the four whales surfaced next to the boat approximately 2.4 km southeast of a hillside park, from which whales can often be seen. “At first, I thought they were giant beaked whales, but realized they were black beaked whales due to their color and size,” said Sugita. The whales slowly approached the stationary boat before spouting and disappearing into the water together.
 
Professor (of cetology) Matsuishi Takashi of Hokkaido University’s Graduate School of Fisheries Science, who is also a member of the research group that applied for the recognition as a new species, said, “This is probably the first sighting of the whales since they were recognized as a new species. The video is valuable as it shows them swimming together in a group and diving without showing their tailfins.”

The four black beaked whales spotted off the coast of Rausu (photo courtesy of Shiretoko-Rausu Cruise Hamanasu)

Location

Rausu Cruise Ship Port

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