Orcas keep attacking sailboats off the coasts of Spain and Morocco.
Earlier this month two attacks were reported where one ended up sinking the boat.
Scientists can’t explain the attacks but one leading theory points to a single, traumatized orca.
Orcas are targeting sailboats near the Iberian Peninsula, and nobody knows why.
Most of the attacks involve multiple orcas ramming the boat but it remains afloat. In several cases, however, the animals have managed to sink entire boats.
The third case of orcas sinking a boat happened earlier this month off the Iberian coast, LiveScience reported.
“The attacks were brutal”
Skipper Werner Schaufelberger was sailing at night off the coast of Spain when three orcas started to attack his boat.
“At first I thought we had hit something. But then I quickly realized that it was orcas attacking the ship,” Schaufelberger told the German publication Yacht.
“The attacks were brutal. There were two smaller and one larger orca. The two little ones shook the rudder while the big one kept running and then rammed the ship from the side with full force,” he added.
The Spanish coast guard rescued Schaufelberger and the rest of the crew and towed the boat to port, where it sank right before reaching port.
It’s important to note that the vast majority of interactions with orcas don’t end with a sunk boat. These attacks near the Iberian Peninsula may be due to a single, traumatized orca that has taught this behavior to other, fellow orcas, LiveScience reporter.
“The orcas are doing this on purpose, of course, we don’t know the origin or the motivation, but defensive behavior based on trauma, as the origin of all this, gains more strength for us every day,” biologist Alfredo López Fernandez at the University of Aveiro in Portugal and representative of the Atlantic Orca Working Group, told LiveScience.
Other orca attacks
Schaufenlberger wasn’t the only victim this month. On May 2, Greg Blackburn thought his boat was hitting rough waves when the thumps began as he sailed through the Strait of Gibraltar near Tangier, Morocco, according to 9News.
But as the jolts continued, and the rudder seemed to resist his steering, Blackburn looked down and saw two orcas repeatedly ramming his boat, and soon two more joined in.
“There’s not a lot you can do at that point,” Blackburn, a sailor from the UK, told 9News. “After reading reports and knowing what has been going on, just thought we were in for a ride now.”
Another pair of notable orca attacks occurred last July, when a pod of orcas struck a sailboat off the coast of Portugal and, just hours later, targeted another vessel in the same area, according to reports.
Orca attacks are becoming more common
A collaboration of researchers has recorded more than 200 reports of “interactions,” where orcas approach or touch a vessel, along Portugal and Spain’s Iberian Peninsula since 2020.
Insider previously reported in 2020 about a series of aggressive actions by orcas along the Spanish and Portuguese coasts. At the time, scientists had different theories: The killer whales could be acting out of curiosity, mischief, territoriality, or trauma.
López Fernandez suspects that one, traumatized female orca may be to blame. Her name is White Gladis and, according to LiveScience, she may have experienced a collision with a boat or entrapment during illegal fishing. The incident changed something in Gladis.
“That traumatized orca is the one that started this behavior of physical contact with the boat,” López Fernandez told LiveScience.
Whatever the reason for the growing number of attacks — whether it’s Gladis or something else — if you encounter an orca in the wild there are some guidelines for what to do:
Keep a low profile on deck. Don’t excite the orcas.
Contact authorities on VHF 16, or by phone on 112
If the orcas ram your boat, secure yourself to something because the last thing you should ever do is enter the water when orcas are nearby.
Correction: May 9, 2023 — An earlier version of this story misstated the nature of the 200 orca incidents reported since 2020, as well as the origin of that statistic. Those reports were of interactions between orcas and boats, not necessarily attacks. And that number comes from a collaboration of scientists collecting reports, not from local media outlets.
This post has been updated with new information. It was originally published on August 13, 2022.
Read the original article on Business Insider
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