While not among the most well-known marine mammals, false killer whales have certainly proven comfortable on camera. During a recent dive off the coast of Hawaii, one videographer experienced this first-hand when an impressive hunting display unfolded before his eyes.

At first, just one whale came into view, but within minutes, six others joined the hunt. The animals were after a lone mahi mahi, that had taken refuge behind a floating plastic bag. 

"It was surreal," Seth Conae, who captured the action on camera, told local KHON2 News. “It’s hard to control yourself when you’re in the moment and you’re watching something that you can’t wrap your head around.”

Mahi mahi regularly cruise the waters at 20 mph (32 kmph), but speed alone is no match for the false killer whale's acrobatic swimming. It's possible that the fish was already injured, but according to Conae, it seemed to hide only when the whales were near. 

"It was almost like [the fish] was in protection mode," he said. "I thought, 'this is a National Geographic moment unfolding right in front of me.'"

False killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens) typically travel and forage in groups of 10 to 20 animals, but they've been known to form wider bands across a particular region in search of schooling fish. This isn't the first demonstration of the whales' cooperative hunting we've seen; you might remember this amazing clip of a pod chasing, and eventually eating a shark in Australia:


Hawaiian false killer whales are unique in that they stick around the island their whole lives. They are considered genetically distinct from other groups, and with just an estimated 150 individuals left in the ocean, they are now protected under the US Endangered Species Act.

It's important to note that while Conae's surprise encounter was an enjoyable one, approaching these animals intentionally is illegal and potentially dangerous. They're curious creatures, but these whales can also be quite territorial.


Top header image: Jim McLean/Flickr

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