Killer whales sink in latest attack off Spain

MADRID, May 25 (Reuters) – Killer whales have seriously damaged a sailing boat off the coast of southern Spain, the local maritime rescue service said on Thursday, adding to dozens of orca attacks on vessels recorded so far this year on the Spanish and Portuguese coasts.

In the early hours of Thursday, a group of orcas broke the rudder and pierced the hull after ramming the Mustique en route to Gibraltar, prompting its crew of four to contact Spanish authorities for help, a report said. spokesperson for the Maritime Rescue Service.

The service deployed a fast-response vessel and a helicopter carrying a bilge pump to assist the 20-metre (66ft) vessel, which was sailing under the British flag, it added. The Mustique was towed to the port of Barbate, in the province of Cadiz, to be repaired.

According to research group GTOA, which tracks populations of the Iberian orca subspecies, the incident follows at least 20 interactions this month alone in the Strait of Gibraltar between small vessels and the very large predators. social. In 2022, 207 interactions were reported, according to GTOA data.

Earlier in May, the sailing ship Alboran Champagne suffered a similar impact from three killer whales half a nautical mile off Barbate. The vessel could not be towed as it was completely swamped and left adrift to sink.

Guidelines issued by the Spanish Ministry of Transport state that whenever vessels observe any alteration in orca behavior – such as sudden changes in direction or speed – they should leave the area as soon as possible and avoid further disturbance to the animals during the maneuvers.

Every interaction between a vessel and an orca must be reported to authorities, the ministry added.

Although known as killer whales, endangered orcas are part of the dolphin family. They can measure up to eight meters and weigh up to six tons when fully grown.

Reporting by David Latone; Editing by Charlie Devereux and Barbara Lewis

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