Coastline closed to sailing boats after orca attacks

ÜNew curfews are being imposed all over Spain. Now it also hits sailboats off the Galician coast in the north-west of the country. However, this is not due to the corona pandemic, but to a group of killer whales that the sailors do not leave alone.

The Ministry of Transport prohibits sailing yachts up to 15 meters in length from crossing the coastline east of the port city of Ferrol: Since the end of August, orcas had attacked at least eight boats in this zone and made them unable to maneuver. The coast guard had to come to their aid as the killer whales had damaged the rudder of some. Small and medium-sized sailing boats that don’t go too fast seem to be particularly attractive to them.

According to Spanish press reports, this precaution is the first of its kind in Europe. Similar incidents had also been observed in the Strait of Gibraltar and off Cádiz that summer.

Normally the orcas coming from Portugal in search of tuna roam the waters peacefully every year without staying longer. lfredo López from the Galician Research Center (CEMMA) spoke to the newspaper “El País” about a “strange and unusual” behavior. The first of them appeared in the area in August. In the past week, three groups of 13 killer whales were still counted. Around half of the 29 sightings so far had no consequences. It is possible that only two animals that had previously been injured in the Strait of Gibraltar were behaving atypically. There is no intent to attack behind this, but it is a precautionary measure for them, according to CEMMA.

Other researchers point out the curiosity of orcas, who were attracted to sounds. The marine biologist and dolphin researcher Bruno Díaz suspects playful intention above all. The damage was likely caused by “immature teenage” orcas who become rowdy, he told the AP news agency: “Maybe these orcas just enjoy doing damage.” According to the scientist, humans are not the natural prey of the largest species in the family of dolphins, which can weigh more than six tons and mostly feed on fish and seals.


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