Killer Whale Attacks Sailboat in Southern Spain. PHOTO/Reuters
MADRID – killer whale or what is known as an orca, causing severe damage to an sailing boat off the coast Spanish south. According to the local Maritime Rescue Service, the attack that occurred on Thursday (25/5/2023) adds to the dozens of orca attacks on ships recorded so far this year on the coasts of Spain and Portugal.
As Reuters reports, a group of orcas are reported to have broken the rudder and pierced the hull after crashing into the Mustique en route to Gibraltar. “This attack prompted the crew of four to contact the Spanish authorities for assistance,” a spokeswoman for the Maritime Rescue Service said.
The service deployed speedboats and a helicopter carrying bilge pumps to assist the 20 meter (66 ft) long vessel, which was sailing under the British flag. The Mustique was towed to the port of Barbate, in the province of Cadiz, for repairs.
According to research group GTOA, which tracks populations of the Iberian orca sub-species, the incidents follow at least 20 interactions this month alone in the Strait of Gibraltar between small boats and the highly social apex predators. In 2022, there were 207 reported interactions, GTOA data shows.
Earlier in May, sailing yacht Alboran Champagne suffered a similar impact from three killer whales half a nautical mile off Barbate. The ship could not be towed because it was submerged in floods and left adrift until it sank.
Guidelines issued by the Spanish Ministry of Transport stipulate that whenever vessels observe a change in orca behavior – such as a sudden change in direction or speed – they must leave the area as soon as possible and avoid further disturbing the animals during the maneuvers.
“Any interaction between the ship and the orca must be reported to the authorities,” said a statement from the Spanish Ministry of Transport.
Although known as the killer whale, the endangered orca is part of the dolphin family. They can measure up to eight meters and weigh up to six tons as adults.