December 1, 2023


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Killer whales continue to sink boats off the coast of Iberia, unnerving sailors

Killer whales continue to sink boats off the coast of Iberia, unnerving sailors

The yacht Grazie Mamma II carried its crew along the coasts and archipelagos of the Mediterranean Sea. Her latest adventure was off the coast of Morocco last week, when she encountered a group of killer whales.

The marine animals collided with the yacht’s rudder for 45 minutes, causing severe damage and water leakage. According to Morsky MilePolish boat operators. The crew fled, and rescuers and the Moroccan Navy tried to pull the yacht to safety, but it sank near the port of Tangier Med, the operating company said on its website.

The story of the sinking heightens the fears of many sailors along the western coast of the Iberian Peninsula, where marine biologists are studying a puzzling phenomenon: killer whales stampede and collide with boats in interactions that have disrupted dozens of voyages and caused boats to sink. It caused at least four boats In the last two years to sink.

Killer whales are the largest of the dolphin family, playful predators that hunt sharks, whales and other prey but are generally friendly to humans in the wild. Killer whales are hunted in the Strait of Gibraltar endangeredResearchers have noticed an uptick in unusual behavior since 2020: a small group of marine animals striking boats on busy roads around Portugal, Spain and Morocco.

While most interactions occur in the waters of southwestern Europe and North Africa, The orca was also reportedly shocked A yacht is about 2,000 miles north off the coast of Scotland, according to The Guardian.

“Killer whales are complex, intelligent and very social,” said Eric Hoyt, a researcher with Whale and Dolphin Conservation and author of Orca: The Whale Called Killer. “We are still in the early stages of trying to understand this behavior.”

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Researchers have rejected the idea that killer whales attack ships. Instead, they hypothesized that boat rudders had become a toy for curious young killer whales and that this behavior had become a learned fad spreading among the population. Another hypothesis, according to biologists Who published a study According to residents last June, the collision was a “passive behavior” due to a bad experience between the killer whale and the boat – although researchers tend to favor the former.

It’s not clear what will stop the collision, fun or otherwise, a point that has left anxious captains traveling these parts exchanging advice Facebook groups are dedicated to tracking such interactions.

“It’s been an interesting summer hiding in the shallow waters,” said Greg Blackburn, the ship’s captain based in Gibraltar. He said killer whales collided with a boat he was driving in May and chewed off the rudder, although the ship was able to return to shore.

The encounter left an impression: On a recent trip to Barcelona, ​​Mr. Blackburn had to pass through a patch where killer whales had been sighted the previous week. “I felt sick for about three hours, constantly watching the horizon for the fin to appear,” he said.

Conservationists, marine rescue groups and yacht clubs Partnership to overcome the challenge To preserve vulnerable populations and help seafarers avoid disasters. The Cruise Association, a club that supports sailors, has recommended safety protocols when encountering killer whales, such as disconnecting the boat and remaining calm. The captains passed on advice to each other to deter attacks, including throwing sand into the water and banging loudly on the boat.

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Before leaving the beach, seagoers can also consult Digital platforms Which is now tracking reported orca sightings and interactions in the area. This could help them avoid the animals, or rent a route closer to shore, said Bruno Diaz Lopez, a biologist and director of the Bottlenose Dolphin Research Institute based in Galicia, Spain.

“We suggested that the boats stay in shallow water,” he said, adding that they noticed more boats changing their trips. “The trip may take longer, yes. But it’ll be worth it.”

Mr Blackburn, the skipper, said he had heard of people resorting to throwing fireworks into the sea to try to scare away the animals, adding that the boats served as homes for people on the ocean. “At the end of the day, if you were protecting your home, what would you do?”

But the ocean is home to killer whales, and environmentalists say scaring the animals is not a solution.

“It’s not about winning a battle, because this is not a war,” Mr. Lopez said. “We need to be respectful.”