Orcas Have Sunk Another Boat! Europe Faces Rising Threats

Orcas have attacked another boat in Europe, sparking concerns among marine experts who warn that more attacks could follow. This unsettling event adds to a growing number of orca incidents in European waters, raising questions about these majestic creatures' behavior.

Orcas Have Sunk Another Boat! Europe Faces Rising Threats

Orcas Sink Another Boat in Europe, More Attacks Expected

A group of orcas, known for attacking boats in southwest Europe, sank a 50-foot sailing yacht in the Strait of Gibraltar by tearing open its hull. This incident marks the fifth time these killer whales have caused a ship to sink in the past three years.

These orcas, which have been attacking boats aggressively since 2020, recently sank their fifth yacht in three years. Experts predict more attacks in the coming months as the orcas have changed their behavior unexpectedly earlier this year.

On Sunday (May 12), an unidentified number of orcas attacked the 49-foot-long sailing yacht named the Alboran Cognac in the Strait of Gibraltar. The orcas repeatedly rammed the boat's hull and rudder starting at approximately 9 a.m. local time, according to Reuters.

The yacht's two-person crew sought help via radio and was rescued by a passing oil tanker. However, the boat sustained severe damage during the attack, leading to it taking on water and eventually sinking, as reported by Reuters.

The attack is believed to be carried out by an increasing number of orcas from the Iberian subpopulation, consisting of about 40 killer whales residing off the coasts of Spain, Portugal, Morocco, and Gibraltar. These orcas have been attacking boats across their range since 2020, mainly between May and August each year in and around the Strait of Gibraltar. However, earlier this year, some of them were spotted circling a boat in northern Spain, indicating a broader and earlier spread.

Consequently, Spanish authorities have advised recreational boaters to stay close to the coast and avoid stopping their vessels if approached by orcas, according to a translated statement from Spain's Maritime Safety and Rescue Society.

human injuries or fatalities

Since the attacks began in 2020, sailors have reported approximately 700 interactions with orcas in the area, ranging from circling and nudging vessels to ramming, ripping apart, and sinking boats, Reuters reported.

The most recent sinking before this occurred on Halloween last year when a pod of orcas sank a sailing yacht in the Strait of Gibraltar after an almost hour-long attack. Prior to that, at least three other boats were sunk in the region between 2022 and early 2023. However, there have been no reports of human injuries or fatalities.

During attacks, the orcas typically target the vessel's rudder, rendering it impossible to steer. Researchers believe this behavior is learned, with eyewitnesses reporting individuals seemingly teaching others. Consequently, the number of attacks has risen over the years.

At least 15 individuals have been linked to at least one attack in the region. Researchers suspect the attacks originated from a single female orca named White Gladis, potentially while pregnant. However, the exact cause of the attacks remains unclear.

There have been suggestions that the behavior may have spread beyond the Iberian population after a similar incident in Scotland in 2023. However, this was an isolated case, making it difficult to directly connect to the Iberian attacks.

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