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

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 due to the increase of orca contacts with small vessels. Other types of vessels also face limitations as described in the official notice.

Published 2 years ago

Since March this year some 50+ sailing vessels have had interactions with killer whales in the vicinity of Barbate in SW Spain, sometimes causing them to lose their rudder. This stretch of coastline is constantly busy with yachts passaging north to Portugal and northern Europe or south into the Mediterranean. Up to 25 cases have required the services of Maritime Rescue for a tow to shore.

Exclusion Zone until 20 August:

In order to avoid more incidents, the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda (MITMA), through the Maritime Captaincy of Cadiz, under the Directorate General of the
Merchant Marine (DGMM), has issued a resolution restricting navigation to sailing vessels equal to or less than 15 meters in length between Cape Trafalgar and Barbate, in an extension of approximately 2 and 9 miles from the coast.

The exclusion zone area is bounded by the following co-ordinates:

36-08.0N 006-02.0W
36-02.0N 006-02.2W
36-08.0N 005-55.5W
36-00.0N 005-50.0W
36-03.5N 005-48.0W

[for a chart showing the area review the official resolution]

Navigation through the exclusion zone is not allowed unless entering or leaving harbor/anchorage. In this case passage through the exclusion zone must be done as quickly as possible under motor only.

Only mechanical mechanical propulsion should be used within the restricted area and all other vessels are asked to refrain from cetacean watching activities.

Anchoring is not allowed in non-marked areas between the exclusion zone and the coast of Spain.

Encounters with Orcas:

If any vessel has an unexpected encounter with killer whales, whenever possible it is recommended to stop the engine, lower the sails, leave the rudder to move freely, disconnect the echo sounder and prevent people on board from approaching the sides of the boat.

Report any incident to MRCC Tarifa on VHF Ch. 10/16.

Follow the recommendations of the Salvamento Maritimo’s coastal warnings. Their current advice is to stay close to shore in shallow waters (between 1 and 3 miles offshore) under power rather than sail.

This resolution will initially be in force until the 20th of this month, although its extension or cancellation is not ruled out, depending on the development of events.

This is the second time that the Directorate General of the Merchant Marine has issued a resolution of these characteristics. The first one took place in September 2020 in the waters off the Galician coast and lasted for several weeks with the same objective: to ensure the maritime safety of sailors and their vessels and to protect marine biodiversity.

Boats planning on transiting this coast are discussing forming convoys. The report “ORCA Interaction Advice to Yachts” has plenty of comments and suggestions posted by Noonsite users.

See the official notice published by the Ministerio de Transportes, Movilidad y Agenda Urbana – MITMA – [in Spanish with chart of exclusion zone area].



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  1. October 5, 2021 at 6:55 AM
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    sue-richards says:

    These restrictions are now lifted, with the orcas moving north. At this time a great deal of activity is being reported off the NW Coast of Spain (Galicia) in particular off the Ria de Vigo.

  2. August 22, 2021 at 9:46 AM
    strutzkoff says:

    What do you think about forming convoy of 10-20 yachts and charter a motor yacht to escort the yachts through the strait ?
    Each yacht pitch in 100-200 euro the motor yacht could help chase off. And also help tow in. Any thoughts?

  3. August 11, 2021 at 2:29 PM
    pippus says:

    I’ve been sailing with an HR53 yesterday from Gibraltar, where I’ve met 4 boats with rudder and quadrant damaged, to Cadiz and no meeting !
    I took an off shore route not closer than 12 miles from the coast following the multitude of cargo ships around the strait and then off shore Barbate there are always a dozen of cargo ships waiting to get in to the harbour. Probably that’s a good safe strategy.