A group of killer whales has caused significant damage to a sailboat near the southern coast of Spain, according to the local maritime rescue service. This incident adds to the growing number of orca attacks on boats along the Spanish and Portuguese coasts this year. The sailing vessel named Mustique was en route to Gibraltar when the orcas rammed into it, breaking the rudder and piercing the hull. The crew of four immediately contacted Spanish authorities for assistance.
The maritime rescue service promptly dispatched a rapid-response vessel and a helicopter carrying a bilge pump to aid the 20-meter (66-foot) British-flagged boat. The Mustique was subsequently towed to the port of Barbate in Cadiz province for necessary repairs.
The GTOA, a research group monitoring the Iberian orca sub-species, reported at least 20 similar incidents in the Strait of Gibraltar involving small vessels and these highly social apex predators in the current month alone. Data from GTOA revealed that there were 207 reported interactions in 2022.
Earlier in May, another sailing yacht called Alboran Champagne experienced a similar encounter with three orcas just half a nautical mile off Barbate. Unfortunately, the vessel could not be salvaged as it had become completely flooded and was left adrift to sink.
The Spanish Transport Ministry has issued guidelines stating that ships should leave the area promptly and avoid further disturbance to the orcas if they observe any changes in their behavior, such as sudden alterations in direction or speed. It is also mandatory to report every interaction between a ship and an orca to the authorities.
Despite their name, killer whales, or orcas, are actually part of the dolphin family. As an endangered species, adult orcas can reach lengths of up to eight meters and weigh up to six tons.
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