Killer whales strike again as another yacht is sunk in Strait of Gibraltar

A pod of killer whales launched a scary 45-minute-long attack against a sailing boat.

The incident happened on Tuesday in the Strait of Gibraltar, off the coast of Morocco.

Despite the attempts by the crew and rescue services to reach the coast with the vessel in the wake of the assault, the boat belonging to a Polish company eventually sank near the port of Tanger-Med.

Following the killer whale attack, the company – Morskie Mile – shared what happened in the Strait in a social media post, which read: “They hit the boat for 45 minutes, causing extensive damage.

“Despite attempts to bring the yacht to port by the captain, crew and rescue teams, it sank near the entrance to the port of Tanger-Med.”

READ MORE: Orcas ‘play games’ with British yachts as officials confirm spate of attacks

No member of the crew was left harmed in the attack, according to the company.

The attack came after a summer season filled with incidents in the Strait of Gibraltar involving boats and killer whales. But the nature of the latest assault on the Polish vessel is more peculiar than those recorded in the summer, given it happened during a season in which orcas are normally not hunting in the Strait. 

During the spring and summer months, killer whales swim through the Strait of Gibraltar to catch tuna migrating from the Atlantic Ocean.

This latest incident involving orcas, however, suggested this pod of killer whales may be abandoning its migratory behaviour due to an abundance of food now present in the Strait throughout the year.

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Incidents involving killer whales and boats in the area have been on the rise since 2020, according to biologist Alfredo Lopez.

The member of the Atlantic Orca Working Group (GTOA), told El Independiente earlier this year while speaking of the animals’ behaviour: “They approach boats and touch them, sometimes causing damage.”

An estimate by GTOA suggested that, between 2020 and 2022, killer whales touched one out of every 100 boats that sailed through the area, and seriously damaged 20 percent of them.

While these attacks are scary, killer whales don’t perceive humans as food. Therefore, even if boat passengers were to fall into the water after a clash between the animals and their boat, they would likely be left alone by the orcas, the biologist added.

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A recent report by the ORCA Cadiz Project, which tracks down killer whales near the Iberian Peninsula and particularly in the Strait of Gibraltar, said 14 female specimens are known to have broken or deformed the rudders of boats sailing around the coast of the Campo de Gibraltar.

This behaviour, the report noted, is unlikely to be a “defensive response”. Rather, the report speculated, the perceived attacks on the boats may instead be training sessions held by adult killer whales, which are using the rudders to teach their calves to catch tuna.

It read: “If it were a defensive response, this behaviour would be perpetrated by adults, who protect themselves and their young from a possible threat, but this is not the case, as there are only two adults involved as opposed to the 12 juveniles who actively participate in it.”

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