Atlantic Spain and Portugal: Orcas Ramming Yachts

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 significant damage. This behavior has left scientists baffled.

Published 4 years ago

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

Since July, sailors have been reporting worrying encounters with orcas (killer whales) along the Atlantic coast of Spain and Portugal. Two boats lost part of their rudders with several sustaining serious damage and at least one crew member suffered bruising from the impact of the ramming.

The most recently reported encounter was last Friday afternoon, off A Coruña, on the north west coast of Spain. A 36ft yacht on passage to the UK was rammed by an orca at least 15 times from the stern. Consequently steerage was lost and the boat had to be towed into port.

Simultaneously orca sightings were being reported off Vigo, 70 miles south, near where two earlier encounters had taken place; one on a French yacht (who felt like they were being attacked) and another on a Spanish naval yacht which lost part of its rudder during the encounter.

Orcas commonly are inquisitive animals, and like to interact with boats, but not in such an aggressive and persistent way as these orcas are doing. Around this time of year is when orcas make their way up the coast from the Gulf of Cadiz to chase tuna into the Bay of Biscay. Scientists believe the aggressive interactions are related to stress as more boats populate the water and the food supply is dwindling.

The Spanish Maritime Authorities are warning boats to keep their distance and to report any sightings.

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  1. February 17, 2021 at 4:31 PM
    DBlackwell says:

    A scientist who investigated these incidents provides insight in SoloVelaNet issue.