Dozens of Incidents Recorded as Orca Whales Damage Vessels Along Spanish and Portuguese Coasts
MADRID – In a concerning trend, killer whales have been causing severe damage to sailing boats off the coast of southern Spain, posing a growing threat to maritime safety. The local maritime rescue service has reported dozens of orca attacks on vessels in Spanish and Portuguese waters this year alone. The recent incident involving the Mustique, a sailing boat en route to Gibraltar, highlights the escalating problem.
On Thursday, a group of orcas rammed into the Mustique, breaking its rudder and piercing the hull. The crew of four onboard immediately sought help from Spanish authorities, leading to the deployment of a rapid-response vessel and a helicopter equipped with a bilge pump. The damaged Mustique was eventually towed to the port of Barbate in the province of Cadiz for repairs.
According to the research group GTOA, which monitors the Iberian orca sub-species population, there have been at least 20 interactions between small vessels and these highly social apex predators in the Strait of Gibraltar this month alone. Last year, a total of 207 such interactions were reported, as per GTOA data.
One notable incident occurred earlier this month when the sailing yacht Alboran Champagne was struck by three orcas half a nautical mile off Barbate. Unfortunately, the vessel could not be salvaged as it was completely flooded and was left adrift to sink.
Guidelines for Safe Navigation in the Presence of Highly Social Apex Predators
To ensure the safety of both sailors and orcas, the Spanish Transport Ministry has issued guidelines for ship navigation in the presence of these creatures. The guidelines emphasize that whenever ships notice any unusual behaviour from orcas, such as sudden changes in direction or speed, they should immediately leave the area and avoid any further disturbance to the animals during manoeuvring.
Furthermore, the ministry has made it mandatory for every interaction between a ship and an orca to be reported to the authorities. This reporting requirement will help gather crucial data and enable the implementation of measures to mitigate future incidents.
It’s important to note that despite their name, killer whales, or orcas, are part of the dolphin family. These magnificent creatures can grow up to eight meters in length and weigh up to six tonnes as adults. However, due to their endangered status, it is vital to prioritize their conservation and coexist peacefully with them in their natural habitat.
As the number of orca attacks on sailing boats continues to rise in Spanish waters, it is crucial for sailors, authorities, and the general public to remain vigilant and adhere to the guidelines set forth by the Spanish Transport Ministry. By respecting these guidelines, we can promote safer navigation practices while protecting the extraordinary marine life that graces our coasts. – Reuters