Orcas vs. Boat : who is the real threat ?

Orcas vs. Boat : who is the real threat ?
  • PublishedMay 31, 2023

Since 2020, numerous interactions have taken place between orcas and boats, mostly sailboats. These encounters happened on the Iberian Peninsula from Gibraltar to Galicia.

The ships were heckled, and only three sank. The crews have always escaped unscathed. Yet the number of incidents since May 2020 has risen to over 500.

The killer whales bite, bend and break the rudders of sailboats. Scientists still don’t know exactly why it happens. These phenomena are recorded and studied by the GTOA research group.

They do, however, have several theories.

The first assumption is that a orca was traumatized. Called White Gladis, she may have been traumatized by a collision with a boat or by being trapped during illegal fishing. She would then have taught other killer whales how to attack boats. Motivations could be revenge, or simply the assimilation of boats as a threat.

Another hypothesis is an accumulation of factors : the rarefaction of preys, the perturbation by boats and interactions with fisheries.

The last theory suggests that the orcas are only playing. They are known for their curiosity and it could be just it.

Researchers aren’t sure if the behavior observed is a “fad”, a behavior initiated by one or two individuals and momentarily adopted by others.

Also, one thing is sure. These incidents endanger killer whales. If the altercations persist, sailors will equip themselves with weapons. Already low in population, the orca number will diminish and the remaining could be severely injured.

Boats pose a threat to killer whales. Whether it’s noise, propellers or fishing, boats endanger orcas.

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