Killer whales sink a yacht in the Strait of Gibraltar

Killer whales attack boat

Killer whales attack boat Photo: Flickr CC / Chase Dekker

A group of killer whales have sunk a sailing boat that was in Moroccan waters in the Strait of Gibraltar, and its two crew members had to be rescued by the authorities.

The events occurred on Sunday May 12 at around 9am, when the two occupants of the sailing boat were attacked by a group of killer whales or orcas, 14 miles from Cape Espartel, in Morocco, as reported by Maritime Rescue.

An urgent call requested evacuation as they had felt and heard the blows from the orcas to the hull of the boat resulting in damage to the rudder. The Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in Tarifa recommended that they put on their life jackets, turn on the Automatic Identification System and have their radio beacons ready to locate them if necessary.

The oil tanker MT Lascaux, which was sailing close to the scene of the incident, was asked to come to the aid of the sailboat and provide assistance. At around 10am a communication was received at the Tarifa Coordination Centre informing them that the two crew members of the sailboat had been rescued by the tanker, the vessel was left drifting and subsequently sank due to the damage. The two crew members were taken to Gibraltar and were unharmed.

Not aggressive

This is the first known interaction with killer whales in the waters of the Strait of Gibraltar this year, coinciding with the arrival of good weather. According to experts, the interactions between the killer whales and the boats “are not aggressive”, but are more related to “play or socialisation behaviour than aggression”.

The authorities recommend that care should be taken particularly from April to August in the area of the Gulf of Cadiz and the Strait of Gibraltar, as it is, “an area with a high probability of killer whales during these months”. The recommendations during this period are to sail in shallower waters, “as close as possible to the coast within the safety limits”.

Endangered species

The killer whale population in the Strait of Gibraltar and the Gulf of Cadiz is listed as ‘vulnerable’ in the Spanish Catalogue of Endangered Species (CEEA). For species included in the CEEA, any action taken for the purpose of killing, capturing, persecuting or disturbing them is prohibited.

The measures for the protection of orcas include the prohibition of approaching with any boat at less than 60 metres, as well as not producing loud or strident noises and sounds in an attempt to attract or drive them away.

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Written by

Kevin Fraser Park

Kevin was born in Scotland and worked in marketing, running his own businesses in UK, Italy and, for the last 8 years, here in Spain. He moved to the Costa del Sol in 2016 working initially in real estate. He has a passion for literature and particularly the English language which is how he got into writing.