Orcas and Yachts

Plan of the likely route and areas for attack risk.

Since 2020, there have been interactions between orcas and vessels (mostly sailboats) in the area of ​​the Strait of Gibraltar, Portuguese coast and Galicia (Spain). Orca encounters are now a common risk for yachts making passage in the waters off the western Iberian peninsula.

Many yachts don’t come across Orcas and a great number sight killer whales but have an incident-free encounter. However there are instances where interactions have appeared “threatening”, with a growing number of yachts suffering rudder damage and in July 2022 a yacht sinking off Sines, Portugal, following a night time encounter with orcas.

Fishermen in the approaches to Gibraltar reported plenty of tuna in the area during July 2022, but a very unusually small number of orca sightings. It appears that the orcas migrated North to Galicia earlier than usual this year.

The reason for this recent and repetitive behavior towards small vessels is still not fully understood.

A growing number of yachting organisations are publishing advice for yachts, alongside recommendations from orca working groups. This can all be found in the useful resources on this page, as well as news of reported encounters with yachts and orca-related reports.

One of the Orcas photographed by the Spanish Naval yacht “Mirfak”

If you are planning a passage around the Iberian peninsula, do your research first and identify where you can get the latest location information on encounters and orca sightings. The facebook pages established for cruisers to discuss and report encouters are useful to read so that you as Skipper can establish what encounter-plan you intend to follow should you come across orcas on passage. Methods used vary greatly and should be considered alongside the official guidelines. See useful resources below for helpful links.

All sailors that suffer an interaction are encourgaged to report. An NGO run site supported by several institutions which is widely being used by a group of scientists in the region is https://www.orcaiberica.org/last-interactions. You can also submit an interaction or uneventful passage report at www.theca.org.uk/orcas.

09 August 2022:

Orcas very active off Finisterre in NW Spain – off the Sisargas Islands and Malpica. Ten interactions with yachts reported over a 3-day period, all requiring assistance from Maritime Rescue. Some of the yachts were damaged and left adrift.

Useful Resources

  • Atlantic Orca Working Group (GTOA)

    Groupo Trabajo Orca Atlantica (GTOA), or – Atlantic Orca Working Group.  Their website logs sightings and interactions with vessels off the Iberian peninsula, plus has... Read More

  • Online Reporting Platform to Register Orca Sightings

    The Cruising Association (CA) and Groupo Trabajo Orca Atlantica (GTOA – Atlantic Orca Working Group) have partnered to launch a new online reporting platform for... Read More

  • Orca (Killer Whale) Guidelines by the Royal Yachting Association (UK)

    Advice to help prevent causing distress to Orcas and damage to your craft. Regularly revised guidelines.

    https://www.rya.org.uk/news/revised-orca-guidelines... Read More

  • Orca Attack Reporting Facebook Page

    Reporting platform for orca attacks on small vessels with 11,000 plus followers.

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/435540734439160/

     ... Read More

  • Orca Interaction Advice to Yachts by the RCCPF

    Henry Buchanan, author of Atlantic Spain and Portugal from the Royal Cruising Club Pilotage Foundation, shares this “Action Plan” if Orca are sighted and begin... Read More

  • Orca Protection in Spanish Waters and Advice for Yachts

    The Spanish Government Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge (MITECO) give specific information about the laws that protect orcas in Spanish waters... Read More

  • Orca Recommendations by ICNF (Portugal)

    ICNF (Portuguese Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forests) recommend that tourist/pleasure vessels do not approach orcas.

    https://www.amn.pt/DGAM/Capitanias/Olhao/Lists/Documentos_AMN/edital%20orcas_signed.pdf

    https://www.icnf.pt/... Read More

  • Safety at Sea Facebook Page

    This safety at sea Facebook page covers orca sightings and interactions around the Iberian peninsula.

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/631608960737670/... Read More

  • Salvamento Marítimo

    Spanish coastguard Facebook page - just put "orca" into the search to find latest reports and assistance rendered to yachts with rudder damage.

    https://www.facebook.com/salvamentomaritimo.es... Read More

  • Spanish Cruisers Facebook Page

    Facebook page in Spanish for local cruisers but picks up alot of local orca sightings and interactions/damage to yachts.

    https://www.facebook.com/patronesdeyate/... Read More

  • Video: Cabo de Finisterre – Bahia de Corcubion – Encounter with Orcas

    Video taken by a sailboat August 2022 that encoutered a group of orcas in Bahia de Corcubion when rounding Cabo de Finisterre, NW Spain. Ten... Read More

  • Whale Watching Regulations: Washington State

    Regulations are in place in both Canada and the US which require vessels to keep 200 yards/meters away from endangered Southern resident killer whales. These... Read More

Reports

  • NW Spain, Finisterre: Speedy Repairs after Orca Damage

    Date Published - November 14, 2021

    Orcas have been interacting with yachts off the western Iberian Peninsula for some time now, widely reported on Noonsite and the web. SY Carissa was... Read More

  • France: Navigating the Canals and Rivers in a Small Yacht

    Date Published - September 20, 2021

    After dealing with inquisitive Orcas off the coast of Spain while on a recent yacht delivery, Martin Evans decided to take his yacht back to... Read More

  • Gibraltar to Cadiz: Orca Encounter – First Person Report

    Date Published - June 13, 2021

    After leaving Gibraltar, bound for Cadiz, sailing vessel La Dolce Vita encountered a pod of Orca. Her skipper Marcos C G Ferreira reports on... Read More

  • Washington, San Juan Island: Proposed No Go Zone to Protect Orca Feeding Areas

    Date Published - January 21, 2010

    As reported by Cruising Compass

    Proposed Rules Would Restrict Boating In PNW Orca Feeding Areas

    January 21, 2010

    The first baby orca of the year has been born... Read More

News

  • Portugal: Yacht Sinks after Orca Interaction

    Date Published - August 02, 2022

    Five crew members were rescued from a yacht that sank after what was considered to be an interaction with Orcas offshore from the Portugese port... Read More

  • Iberian Peninsula: Online Reporting Platform Launched to Register Orca Interactions

    Date Published - June 14, 2022

    The Cruising Association (CA) and Groupo Trabajo Orca Atlantica (GTOA - Atlantic Orca Working Group) have partnered to launch a new online reporting platform for... Read More

  • Spain: Orca Damage Twenty Boats in One Month

    Date Published - June 05, 2022

    Orca encounters with yachts transiting the western Iberian peninsula have been going on for well over two years. As transit season for yachts begins in... Read More

  • Spain: Clarification on what tactics used by yachts to repel orcas are forbidden by Spanish law

    Date Published - April 24, 2022

    As yachts begin to transit from Northern Europe down the coast of Spain and Portugal to the Mediterranean, the UK Royal Yachting Association (RYA) is... Read More

  • NW Spain: Orca Activity Increasing – Daily Tally of Yachts Damaged

    Date Published - October 06, 2021

    With boat owners leaving the Med to get home to northern Europe for the winter and transAtlantic yachts departing northern Europe for departure from further... Read More

  • SW Spain, Gulf of Cadiz: Exclusion Zone between Cabo de Trafalgar and Punta Paloma

    Date Published - August 06, 2021

    An exclusion zone for (sailing and motor) vessels up to 15 metres has been established by the Marina Mercante off the coast of SW Spain... Read More

  • Atlantic Spain and Portugal: ORCA Interaction Advice to Yachts

    Date Published - April 23, 2021

    Following reports of pods of Orca harassing and in some cases ramming yachts in the area from the Straits of Gibraltar to NW Spain, Spanish... Read More

  • NW Spain: Government Introduces a No-Sailing-Zone following 29 Incidents Between Sailboats and Killer Whales

    Date Published - September 22, 2020

    Government and environmentalists can't explain why killer whales are playing with sailboats off the coast of Galicia. Twenty nine contacts with killer whales have been... Read More

  • Atlantic Spain and Portugal: Orcas Ramming Yachts

    Date Published - September 14, 2020

    From the Straits of Gibraltar to the tip of NW Spain, Orcas have been harassing sailing yachts and in a number of cases violently causing... Read More

Update History

August 2022: Page established and made live as orca encounters with yachts continue and increase, to bring together all orca resources, news and reports on Noonsite into one central place.

Date Last Edited

August 08, 2022 - 12:00 AM

Last Edited By