Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Killer Whales Attack and Sink Yacht In Strait of Gibraltar

A group of killer whales repeatedly slammed a 50-foot yacht in the Strait of Gibraltar on Sunday morning, causing it to sink, according to officials.

At approximately 9 a.m., crew members called rescue services for help, stating that their boat had been compromised by orca whales approximately 15 miles from Cape Spartel, which is located near the southern opening to the Strait of Gibraltar.

They reported feeling blows to the rudder and to the hull of the vessel, which suffered significant damage from the attacks.

Spain’s maritime rescue service confirmed that there were two people on board at the time of the incident and both were rescued by MT Lascaux, a passing oil tanker within an hour. Officials also mobilized a helicopter, which arrived at the scene shortly afterward.

While those on board were rescued, the yacht was left adrift in the water, where it eventually sank.

Over the past four years, orca attacks in Moroccan waters have become increasingly common, causing sailors to be weary of the area. According to a research group, such interactions have more than tripled since 2022.

orca attack
Orca interactions have becoming increasingly common over the past few years, with several boats having sank as a result of their attacks

Experts believe the attacks involve a group of 15 whales, which they have designated as ‘Gladis’.

According to An Atlantic Orca Task Force, a research group that tracks the Iberian orca subspecies, there have been close to 700 orca and boat interactions since the first killer whale attack on ship were reported in the area in the summer of 2020.

It’s currently unknown why the killer whales are targeting yachts and boats, however, some say they may be ‘acts of revenge’.

According to Alfredo Lopez Fernandez, a marine biologist, the lead orca of the group, a female they’ve dubbed ‘White Gladis’, had likely suffered a serious injury previously after becoming entangled with a fishing line or colliding with a boat, which has only made her more aggressive.

orca attacks map
Interactions with killer whales are most likely to happen around the Strait of Gibraltar and the Gulf of Gadiz in Spain

Others believe the attacks are a manifestation of the whales’ curiosity. Another theory is that the whales are intentionally targeting boats, as they see them as ‘competitors’ for the local bluefin tuna, which happens to be their favorite prey.

Officials are advising anyone sailing through the Strait of Gibraltar and the Gulf of Cadiz to avoid certain areas in the water that rescue service have tagged as being ‘potentially dangerous’. The threat is the greatest in the summer between May and August as that’s when killer whales are most commonly seen in the area.

While most killer whale attacks result in only minor damage or injuries, the incidents have become more frequent over the past months, with many boats sinking due to the attacks.

2023 orca attack
Philouceros was sailing off the coast of Portugal when a pod of orcas began to follow and attack his 30-foot boat last August

In August 2023, 77-year-old Phep Philouceros was sailing on his boat off the coast of Cape Vincent when a group of orcas began to slam into the vessel for 30 minutes. Even as he was towing the boat to shore, the mammals continued to attack.

Last October, a vessel from a boat touring company also sank after a group of killer whales repeatedly slammed into the steering fin for over 40 minutes. The attack eventually caused a leak, which led the boat to sink.

Brooke Carter
Brooke Carter
Freelance writer who loves dogs and anything related to Japanese culture.
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