Leonardo Sánchez Criollo

The Killer Whale in the Caribbean Sea: An Updated Review of Its Ecology, Exploitation, and Interactions with Fisheries


The killer whale (Orcinus orca) is a cosmopolitan cetacean distributed worldwide. Extensive studies have described its ecology and behavior across multiple polar and temperate regions. On the other hand, there is limited information on the distribution, ecological roles, and abundance of killer whales in tropical and subtropical regions. Herein, we build on previous work to update information on the spatiotemporal distribution, exploitation, and natural history of killer whales in the Caribbean Sea. We also document new records on their interaction with other species and human activities. We collated 385 records from the literature, online biodiversity information systems, the Internet (social networks and video-hosting websites), and citizen science-based initiatives. Records included sightings (87.3%), intentional captures (10.6%), bycatch (0.3%), and strandings (1.8%). Data primarily originated from research projects/activities (57%) and citizen-science-based initiatives (43%). Records were distributed in the eastern Caribbean (39.5%), the southern Caribbean (19.7%), the Greater Antilles (19.2%), the Bahamian Region (13.0%), Central America (6.8%), and eastern Florida (1.8%). Killer whales were recorded year-round, but most data were reported between March and August (59.6%). The scarcity of records in Central America could reflect true lower densities in the region, lower observation effort, or a combination of the two. Because of the paucity of data, this study supports the growing importance of citizen-science initiatives to document the occurrence and ecology of this species in the Caribbean. Our dataset also confirms the occasional and widespread occurrence of killer whales throughout the Caribbean Sea. Potential low densities and limited predictability of their occurrence hinder dedicated research on this species.

Data type
Scientific article
Research and monitoring
Geographic location
Saba bank
St. Eustatius
St. Maarten