Orcas vs. boats. Attacks tripled, why is this happening?


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Not a form of play, nor a system of self-defense. There are those who are convinced that attacks on sailboats by killer whale pods are actually forms of hunting training against the pups.

In recent years, the Mediterranean sailing community has witnessed in astonishment a long series of assaults in which pods of killer whales have increasingly attacked sailboats, yachts and fishing boats along the coasts of Spain and Portugal. In some cases causing boats to sink or otherwise causing damage to hulls and equipment. As well as terrorizing the crews on board.

Marine scientists are still trying to determine what is causing the increase in killer whale attacks on boats. But there is no doubt that there has been a considerable increase in these incidents. Over the past two years, the Atlantic Orca Research Working Group has found that these events have tripled from 52 incidents in 2020 to more than 200 in 2022.

Orcas know what they are doing

According to the scientific community, attacks on boats are a form of play. Nor is it defensive behavior. There are those who argue that in fact these attacks are strategic and conscious on the part of the killer whales. Commander Dan Kriz of the Reliance Yacht Management shipping company, for example, is convinced of this. After surviving two attacks he believes these orca groups know “exactly what they are doing.”

Kriz had his first encounter with killer whales in 2020. “I was sailing with my crew through the Strait of Gibraltar to deliver a yacht,” the sailor recounts, “when I was surrounded by a pod of eight orcas that pushed and pounded the boat for about an hour. We were one of the first boats to experience this very unusual behavior of orcas.” Although orcas caused significant damage to the boat’s rudder, leaving it stranded and needing to be towed to the nearest port, a similar attack 3 years later reinforced his belief that orcas intentionally disturb boats.


Already 28 attacks recorded in Spain in 2023

In recent years, groups of killer whales have rammed hundreds of small boats off the Spanish and Portuguese coasts, with “terrifying” behavior that has baffled scientists. The attacks occurred mainly between Cadiz and the port of Tanger in northern Morocco, near the Strait of Gibraltar. In 2023 alone, the Spanish Coast Guard has already recorded 28 “interactions” between killer whales and sailboats.

Kriz himself related that on April 15 he was delivering a catamaran near the Canary Islands when he began to feel the boat being moved by the creatures below. In the 2020 attack we could hear the orcas communicating with each other under the boat,” the captain explained, “This time, however, they were silent and it did not take them long to destroy both rudders. They seemed to know exactly what to do. They didn’t touch anything else.”


This is how parents train puppies

In early June, biologist and conservationist Jeff Corwin said this behavior is due to the incredible intelligence of killer whales and even believes that the older specimens are teaching the younger members of the pod such aggressive behaviors. “What we are seeing,” the biologist explains, “is that this is a behavior that is the result of adaptation. These animals learn from their environment and then take those skills and share them and teach them to other orcas.” Some researchers have even speculated that a single orca, obsessed with revenge, is teaching others to attack boats after being injured by one in the past. But not everyone is convinced of this theory.

“If they wanted to, they could crush the boat in the blink of an eye,” said Sébastien Destremau, a captain who was involved in an attack last May 22. Also according to him, these are parents teaching their pups to hunt using boats as a learning tool.

However, most researchers interviewed about this bizarre behavior agree that the attacks are not malicious or a direct attempt to kill humans. Although a number of boats sank after being severely damaged. Everything remains shrouded in mystery for the time being.



2 thoughts on “Orcas vs. boats. Attacks tripled, why is this happening?”

  1. I think it was 1969 when I read about Robin Knox Johnson around the world solo, in his exciting hard to put down book “A World of My Own”. first edition. The second edition softened the personal emotions too very much. Remember in those days there were no conveniences like today. It was the sextant and paper charts… BTW, 8 years later I launched my solo built 50-foot cutter yawl. Then it was time to learn how to sail. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i07qL_N22_c The Daedalus has been gone from my life over 20 years ago.

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