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Killer whales deliberately hitting boats causing some to sink

Following a series of incidents near the southwest tip of Europe, researchers believe killer whales deliberately hit boats, causing them to sink.

Scientists believe that younger orcas mimic the behavior of an older hostile female.

It is believed that the whale, called White Gladis was traumatised after a collision with boat or from being caught in fishing nets.

Alfredo Lopez Fernandez is a biologist from the University of Aveiro, Portugal. He has co-authored an article on the behaviour of the mammals.


He told Live Science that the behavior was “defensive, based on trauma”, and was imitated other whales.

Three orcas are reported to have attacked the side and rudder of a sailing boat off the coasts of Spain on the 4th of May. The coastguard saved all the people on board, but the boat eventually went down.

Werner Schaufelberger, the skipper of the vessel, told the German publication Yacht magazine how two smaller whales seemed to mimic the technique used by a larger whale when they slammed into the boat.

Gibraltar: More Information

Two days prior, six orcas had rammed a yacht’s hull in the Strait of Gibraltar.

This followed a similar incident reported in November, off the coasts of Portugal, when another vessel was reported to have sunk after its hull had been cracked by a hit.

GT Orca Atlantica Working Group data shows that there have already been 60 incidents reported between orcas and boats near the Iberian Coast this year.

In 2020, reports of incidents started to appear. Portugal’s National Marine Agency issued a warning advising sailors of the “curious behavior” of this mammal.

The whales could be attracted by rudders or propellers, and sailors were warned to turn off their engines if whales approached.

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After 50 orca encounters, 25 of which required boats to be towed back to shore, the Spanish authorities banned small craft from sailing in close proximity to Cape Trafalgar.

Iberian orcas are a subpopulation of killer Whales that can reach a maximum length of 21ft (6.5m). The International Union for Conservation of Nature has classified them as critically endangered.


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