Orca sink another yacht in Strait of Gibraltar

Orca bites yacht rudder

Spain’s maritime rescue services report that a pod of orca has sunk a sailing yacht in Moroccan waters in the Strait of Gibraltar, in the latest of a series of similar incidents involving the apex predator.

An unknown number of orca — also known as killer whales — repeatedly rammed the sailing vessel Alboran Cognac, which measured 15 metres (49ft) in length and carried two people, at 9am local time on Sunday (12 May 2024).

The two passengers contacted rescue services after feeling sudden blows to the hull and rudder, before noticing a leak that threatened to sink the vessel. The pair were rescued by a nearby oil tanker and taken to safety. The sailboat eventually sank after the orca attack.

Orca attacks on boats have been making global headlines in recent months, after a spate of ramming and other interaction by orca off the Iberian coastline. Some experts suggest that the whales are teaching their young to attack boats.

Experts reportedly believe that a pod of 15 Iberian killer whales, which are known as gladis, are to blame for several attacks in the area.

The pod — led by worst culprits White Gladis, Black Gladis and Grey Gladis — have been sighted moving between the north of the Iberian Peninsula and the Strait of Gibraltar.

The pod has been connected to seven shipwrecks in total, including five sailboats and two fishing vessels, and hundreds of attacks in total off Spain, Gibraltar, Portugal, Morocco and France.

Some scientists have suggested the orca attacking yachts may be a reaction to trauma following a previous collision White Gladis experienced with a boat, or being trapped in fishing nets.

Since the launch of its orca project in June 2022, the Cruising Association (CA) says it has received around 150 reports from skippers who have experienced an orca interaction.

The CA has now created a library of comments extracted from the full interaction reports, categorising the different actions and measures that skippers have reported when attempting to deter or end an interaction. 

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