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Another rare white killer whale spotted off Hokkaido

A white killer whale is seen in Nemuro Strait off the Shiretoko Peninsula in Hokkaido on July 19, 2019. (Photo courtesy of Shiretoko Nature Cruise)

NEMURO, Hokkaido -- Another rare white killer whale has been spotted in Nemuro Strait off Rausu in the northeastern part of Japan's northernmost prefecture after the same kind of orca was photographed there in May.

The mammal that was recently filmed is not believed to be the same one that was spotted in May as they have different dorsal fin shapes and body color.

The video was captured at around 2:30 p.m. on July 19 by a guide who was working on board the sightseeing boat Hamanasu about 8 kilometers off the coastline of Rausu, according to a staff member of the operating company. The white killer whale was seen with several common orcas close by the boat.

The animal was also photographed about 10 minutes later by Erika Oki, who was working as a guide on a Shiretoko Nature Cruise sightseeing boat about 7 kilometers northeast from Rausu Fishing Port. Oki confirmed a white killer whale was among a pod of about five regular orcas but the boat could only manage to get as close as about 300 meters from the animals as they were moving fast.

Nemuro Strait is located between the town of Rausu on the Shiretoko Peninsula, designated as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site, and Kunashiri Island, one of the four disputed isles comprising the Northern Territories effectively controlled by Russia.

On May 16, scientists with the University Alliance for Hokkaido Orca Research Project (Uni-HORP) photographed a white killer whale among a pod of about 10 such creatures in the strait, more than 10 kilometers from Rausu. It is very rare to spot a white killer whale near Japan, according to the group.

Masato Hasegawa, a captain with Shiretoko Nature Cruise, said, "The white killer whale found on July 19 is grayish and its dorsal fin is not so large. It seems to be different from the one spotted on May 16."

(Japanese original by Hiroaki Honma, Nemuro Resident Bureau)

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