Orca Attacks: Killer Whales Sink Another Boat in Strait of Gibraltar, Spanish Officials Issue Warning to Sailors

Orca attacks on vessels are a phenomenon that has been increasing in the Strait of Gibraltar and the waters off Europe over the past year. In the latest spate of these incidents, a group of killer whales attacked and sank a boat off the coast of Morocco, near the entrance of the Strait of Gibraltar. Due to the renewed threat posed by the marine mammals, Spanish officials issued a warning to sailors.

Since 2020, there have been hundreds of reported incidents involving orcas and boats or yachts, according to reports. The encounters are believed to be unprovoked with multiple vessels already besieged by different pods of killer whales. Despite growing knowledge of this threat, scientists and authorities are still uncertain as to why the animals are attacking boats, which seem to be the orcas’ main targets.

Amid the uncertainty regarding the mystery behind the killer whale attacks, various theories have emerged to potentially explain the behavior exhibited by orcas in recent years. One of the several hypotheses that could explain the behavior is; that some members of the species Orcinus orca in the Atlantic Ocean learned to attack vessels due to a possible traumatic episode experienced by the oceanic predators.

Orcas Sink Boat Again

Orca Attacks: Killer Whales Sink Another Boat in Strait of Gibraltar, Spanish Officials Issue Warning to Sailors
(Photo : Photo by Mike Doherty on Unsplash)

On Sunday, May 12, orcas sink a boat again and this time it happened few miles from the Strait of Gibraltar. The incident involved a 50-foot yacht with two passengers, who remained unharmed after being rescued. Spanish maritime authorities said the passengers were able to notify officials and received help from a nearby oil tanker and Moroccan officials, according to a press release.

It is unclear why the killer whales attacked the yacht. Yet, it occurred again in the Strait of Gibraltar, a narrow channel that connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. The channel is situated between southern Spain and the northern coast of Africa. In November 2023, a small pod of orcas also sank a yacht but left sailors unharmed in the Strait of Gibraltar, off the Iberian Peninsula.

Also Read: Orca Attack Results in Beached Great White Shark Carcass with Liver Ripped Out

Orca Attack Incidents

Unlike predatory sea animals like sharks, orcas are not known for killing humans in the wild, unless in captivity. However, this track record could be changing as a subpopulation of O. orca has been reported to be attacking and ramming boats in the waters of the Iberian Peninsula since the onset of 2020. Particularly, killer whales in the region seem to be targeting the rudders of the vessels.

During this period, there have been more than 500 cases of reported orca attacks on sailing boats across the Atlantic coast of Europe, with countries including Spain, France, and Portugal.

Dubbed an “attack zone,” this region has become susceptible to orca encounters. So far, no attacks have resulted in human injuries or fatalities. In the past, whales have been recorded to attack boats in general.

Related Article: Why Orcas Almost Never Attack Humans

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