Skipper Experiences Hour-Long Attack by Killer Whales

Recent incidents of orcas, also known as killer whales, attacking boats have captured attention worldwide. Reports from the Strait of Gibraltar highlight encounters where these apex predators have displayed aggressive behavior towards vessels, leading to damage and even the sinking of a boat. Scientists and researchers are trying to understand the motivations behind these attacks, while also considering alternative explanations such as playfulness or learned behavior.

On May 4, a group of three orcas in the Strait of Gibraltar intentionally rammed a boat, repeatedly targeting the rudder. The skipper and crew were rescued, but the boat sank. Just two days prior, experienced sailor Greg Blackburn encountered six orcas near Tangier, Morocco. Blackburn described the interaction as non-malicious, suggesting that it could have been a form of education for the young calves accompanying the adults. The encounter caused significant damage to Blackburn’s vessel, including the rudder and helm chains.

Biologist Alfredo López Fernandez, a representative of the Atlantic Orca Working Group, suggests that trauma or a “critical moment of agony” may have triggered the recent aggressive behavior observed in orcas. He hypothesizes that a single orca’s behavior, possibly a collision with a boat, might have been imitated by others. This theory suggests that these incidents could be a result of learned behavior within the orca community.

“The orcas are doing this on purpose, of course, we don’t know the origin or the motivation, but defensive behavior based on trauma, as the origin of all this, gains more strength for us every day,” he said.

Deborah Giles, an orca researcher, proposes an alternative explanation, suggesting that the interactions with boats may be a form of play rather than aggression. This theory is based on the idea that orcas enjoy the thrill of the chase and that the encounters could be a result of their curiosity and playfulness. Further research is needed to determine the validity of this theory.


The Blaze

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