Killer whales gained attention last year by attacking ships off the coast of Galicia
In September of last year, the behavior of a group of killer whales, often referred to as “killer whales,” despite being in fact the largest members of the dolphin family, attracted considerable international attention. after a series of ships sailing in the waters near the Galician coast, were attacked and the ships disabled.
As a result, Salvamento Marítimo issued a warning to navigation advising him that “in case of sighting” orcas, “ships should not try to approach”, but give them a “wide berth” and maintain a “sufficient safety distance”. Indeed, a royal decree of 2007 defines a safety distance of 60 meters as mandatory.
Orcas grow steadily up to nine meters in length and weigh several tons, so when they decide
to ram a boat or “play with a rudder” they can easily deactivate a ship.
All of the “attacks” on the ships last summer were aimed at the rudder and investigators concluded that all of the incidents involved a specific group of juveniles, one of which had significant scars that appeared to have been caused by some sort of contact with the juvenile. impact, probably with the rudder of a ship.
The affected vessels were all medium in size, measuring less than 15 meters. In addition, all the attacks took place between 2 and 8 nautical miles from the coast and the sailing speed varied between 5 and 9 knots, either by sail only, or by sail and motor.
The presence of orcas in the waters off the Spanish coast is nothing new; The Galician coastline is renowned for its rich fishing grounds and marine life, schools of migrating fish moving along its coast attracting hungry predators, a natural cycle that repeats year after year, as schools of tunas cross the Atlantic coast, pursued by orcas.
Orcas are very intelligent hunters, using several techniques to hunt their prey depending on what is available.
Killer whales usually hunt in groups, one of their favorite techniques being to ’round up’ schools of fish, with adult males leading the fish and compacting the school for the rest of the group to eat, usually hunting in areas where they can bring them to the surface, round them up and stun them by slapping them with their tails, eating at leisure.
Killer whales are also known to knock seals down on pieces of floating ice in the water to easily catch them by creating waves around the ice, working in groups, or pushing the fish into shallow water so that they can be caught. ‘they can be harvested by stranding and they are intimidated by larger prey; ram, bite and pull on the pectoral fins of whales in order to wear them down, weaken them and attack in groups.
The Salvamar Arcturus acompañando ayer al velero tras la acometida del grupo de 10 orcas, que tuvo como
resultado the rotura of the pala del timón. pic.twitter.com/IzV5dz6E35
– SALVAMENTO MARÍTIMO (@salvamentogob) June 24, 2021
In recent days, two new incidents involving an interaction between orcas and ships have been reported, this time off the coast of Cadiz in Andalusia.
Velero Rockandroll sufre incident por acometida of a group of orcas in cercanías of Punta Caraminal. Movilizada Salvamar Arcturus, que lo acompaña hasta el puerto de Tarifa. #SeguridadNautica pic.twitter.com/3MOmWcIxce
– SALVAMENTO MARÍTIMO (@salvamentogob) June 23, 2021
The first of the incidents occurred Monday, June 23 in the vicinity of Punta Camarinal, in Tarifa, when the Rockandroll yacht was attacked by a group of killer whales.
The Salvamar Arcturus was sent to her aid and accompanied the ship, suffering from a broken rudder, to port.
The second incident occurred on Wednesday, June 30, about 11 nautical miles south of Barbate, off the coast of Tarifa, also in the municipality of Cadiz. In this case, the target was the sailboat Lea, with three people on board.
There are many theories as to why these orcas attack ships off the coast of Spain.
In Royal Decree 1727/2007, of December 21, which establishes protective measures for cetaceans, “various national and international studies” are cited which show that marine activities modify the behavioral patterns of cetaceans, causing a “state of constant stress produced by the transfer of boats and the persecution to which they are repeatedly subjected “.
The decree also states: “In addition, maritime transport can have harmful effects on populations and their habitat, both by collision with individuals, in particular fast boats or those dedicated to whale watching tourism, and in affecting their communication, ”they add in the document.
Incidente por acometida de orcas esta tarde 11 millas al Sur de Barbate. Velero Lea (3 tripulantes) with el timón roto. Salvamar Enif lo remolca a Barbate. En caso de avistamiento de orcas no se aproximen y den amplio resguardo (archive photo) # Riesgos0 #SeguridadNautica pic.twitter.com/ZM8zujxu9h
– SALVAMENTO MARÍTIMO (@salvamentogob) June 30, 2021
Theories range from gambling, to taking boats for prey, practicing hunting techniques and even attacking boats from aggression to perceived threat.
Salvamento Marítimo again issued the same warnings as in September of last year, advising the crew of any sailboat involved in an encounter with orcas to maintain the same course and speed, without making abrupt changes and trying to maintain a minimum distance of 60 meters.
Images and videos: Salvamento Marítimo