Killer Whales Assault and Sink Another Vessel in the Straits of Gibraltar

Officials said that on Sunday, a sailing yacht sank in the Strait of Gibraltar after an unknown number of orcas collided with the vessel. The impact caused a water leak and there were two people on board at the time. According to Spain’s maritime rescue service, both crew members were saved by an oil tanker that happened to be passing by. This incident is the most recent example of killer whale attacks on boats, which has been happening frequently in recent years.

The incident occurred at approximately 9 a.m. local time in the narrow strait between Spain and Morocco. This area is known for frequent encounters between humans and killer whales. These whales have been observed ramming into boats and occasionally causing them to sink, although the exact reasons for this behaviour are not yet fully understood. The crew members on the SV Alboran Cognac yacht made an emergency call for help when they came across orcas about 14 miles away from Cape Spartel.

The crew members said that they felt hits on the ship’s hull and rudder, which were damaged by the whales, according to the rescue service. The agency’s coordination centre in Tarifa, which is located on the Spanish side of the Strait of Gibraltar, assisted in organising their evacuation using the tanker MT Lascaux. The tanker quickly rescued the crew members from the sinking yacht and they arrived in Gibraltar before 10:30 a.m. The SV Alboran Cognac was left behind and eventually sank into the ocean.

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If you are sailing through the waters from the Gulf of Cádiz in southern Spain to the Strait of Gibraltar, whether in a big motorised boat or a small sailing boat, it is recommended to stay away from certain areas that the maritime rescue service has identified as potentially dangerous spots for interactions with orcas. According to officials, the most common time to see pods of killer whales in the Atlantic is between May and August, which is when the greatest threats exist.

However, past incidents that have been recorded indicate that these dangers could occur at any time. In October of last year, a company in Poland that offers boat tours reported that a group of orcas was able to sink one of their yachts. The orcas repeatedly hit the steering fin for 45 minutes, causing it to start leaking. Last June, two sailing teams participating in a global race reported scary incidents where several orcas collided with or pushed against their boats while they were sailing to the west of Gibraltar.

None of the people on board any of the boats were injured in those incidents. However, there has been an increase in aggressive behaviour, which has led researchers and sailors to investigate why orcas have been trying to sink or capsize so many boats off the coasts of Spain and Portugal.

Some sailors have even started playing loud thrash metal music to try to scare away the top predators.

According to the research group GTOA, there has been a significant increase in reports of orcas interacting with humans in the past two years. They have documented hundreds of such incidents in the region since 2020. However, recent data suggests that there may be changes in the behaviour of orcas.

The group has reported only 26 interactions in the Strait of Gibraltar and Bay of Biscay areas between January and May of this year. The number is 65% less than the number of interactions recorded in the region during the same months last year. It is also 40% less than the average number of interactions recorded in the same months between 2021 and 2023, according to GTOA.

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