Killer whales attack and sink a sailboat off the coast of Gibraltar

An unknown number of orcas rammed a sailboat in the Moroccan waters of the Strait of Gibraltar on Sunday morning, later causing it to sink, the latest attack in a trend that has terrified sailors in the region for four years.

The latest incident took place around 9am when crew members aboard the 50ft long Cognac Alboran called emergency services for help, claiming their vessel had been damaged by the predators at the summit about 14 miles from Cape Spartel, reports local newspaper El Pais. , citing the Spanish maritime rescue service. Cape Spartel is located at the southern entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar.

A helicopter was mobilized and the tanker MT Lascaux which was sailing nearby was also called upon to provide assistance.

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An orca moves along the rudder of Team JAJO engaged in The Ocean Race on June 22, 2023, as the boat approaches the Strait of Gibraltar. A group of killer whales collided with one of the boats during a sailing endurance race. (The Race to the Ocean via AP)

The tanker eventually rescued the two people on board and transported them to Gibraltar. The yacht was left adrift and eventually sank.

The incident is the latest example of recurring orca crushes around the Strait of Gibraltar that separates Europe from Africa and off the Atlantic coast of Portugal and northwest Spain.

Experts estimate that this is a subpopulation of around 15 individuals, called “Gladis”.

According to the research group An Atlantic Orca Task Force (GTOA), which tracks populations of the Iberian subspecies of orcas, there have been nearly 700 interactions since orca attacks on ships in the region began. were first reported in May 2020.

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A killer whale jumps out of the water

A killer whale jumps out of the water into the sea near Rausu, Hokkaido, Japan, July 1, 2019. (Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon/file photo)

It’s unclear why the orcas target the boats, but some experts believe it may be acts of revenge.

Marine biologist Alfredo Lopez Fernandez previously told Live Science that the lead whale, a female orca that scientists have called White Gladis, suffered a “critical moment of agony,” likely a collision with a boat or entanglement with a fishing line, which made it more aggressive. .

Other theories point to a playful display of mammalian curiosity, a social fad, or the intentional targeting of what they perceive as competitors to their preferred prey, the local bluefin tuna.

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A killer whale attacks a boat

A first splash is observed as the killer whale moves under a boat in the Strait of Gibraltar on June 5. (Dan Kriz/Reliance Yacht Management/LOCAL NEWS X/TMX)

All but a few resulted in only minor injuries or damage. However, attacks became more frequent and a few resulted in the sinking of boats.

For example, in August last year, 77-year-old Phep Philouceros was sailing off Cape Vincent in Portugal when his boat was attacked by orcas. The sailor, who has 55 years of experience, said the orcas continued for 30 minutes, even following the boat as it was towed to shore. He filmed part of the attack.

Peter Aitken of Fox News and Reuters contributed to this report.

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