HomeTechBoat-sinking orcas are on the move – and scientists don’t know why

Boat-sinking orcas are on the move – and scientists don’t know why

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Killer whales have been ‘attacking’ boats (Picture: Getty)

The boat-sinking orcas are on the move.

Since 2020, orcas has been attacking boats in southwest Europe, and were recently spotted circling a ship in Spain for the first time this year.

However, the most recent sighting of one such pod is hundreds of miles from where they should be this time of year, suggesting the group is changing its tactics – and scientists have no idea why.

The group is made up of 40 orcas who live off the coast of Spain and Portugal, as well as in the Strait of Gibraltar, and since 2020 some of the orcas have been approaching and occasionally attacking boats.

The most recent sinking happened on October 31, 2023, but the orcas have sent at least three other boats to the bottom of the sea, although thankfully no humans have been injured or killed.

But just a few days ago, on April 10, three of the orcas were spotted swimming near a large yacht in northern Spain, a local news site reported.

The killer whales have not harmed any people (Picture: Getty/500px)

The killer whales did not attack the boat, but people have been warned to take caution when passing through.

However, the orcas don’t normally venture this far north until mid to late summer, a Spanish science site reported.

Biologist Dr Alfredo López Fernandez told the site: ‘Theoretically, they are in the Strait [of Gibraltar] in the spring and should reach the north [of Spain] at the end of the summer.

There is an ‘absolute lack of knowledge’ about why this is happening, he said.



Why are killer whales attacking boats?

Scientists can’t be sure why killer whales have started attacking boats in recent years, but one theory is that a female orca known as White Gladis had a traumatic encounter with boat, changing her behaviour towards boats – something other orcas have picked up.

Killer whales are well-known for copycat behaviour – one group developed the short-term trend of carrying a dead salmon on their heads.

However, some experts have warned the orcas are simply being playful, rather than attacking the boats.

Other orcas have been spotted further east along the Spanish coastline toward Biscay and further south of Portuguese waters over the last few weeks. But the killer whales usually follow tuna, but it’s unclear if they have arrived early this year.

Although the orcas have attacked boats in the past, so far the group has left the vessels alone, but some experts believe the attacks could start up again in the next few months.

Discover Wildlife reports that since May 2020, there have been more than 500 reports of killer whales attacking sailing boats as well as some fishing boats, RIBs and motorboats.

The ‘attack zone’ seems to be in the Atlantic coasts of Portugal, Spain and France, but in June 2023, a yacht was ambushed off the coast of Shetland – which was the first incident recorded in northern waters.


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