The incidents were similar, commencing with a loss of steering and violent movements of the wheel/ helm, followed by whales breaking the surface near the boats. “I don’t have the evidence yet,” he says, “but I would put my hand in the fire and say that this is the pod that the Gladises have come from.”. As investigations into the spate of attacks continue, Spanish authorities are warning sailors to keep their distance from orca pods. © Autonomous Nonprofit Organization “TV-Novosti”, 2005–2021. On social media, amid gifs and jokes about the ocean fighting back, there were comments suggesting people on their yachts should “stay in their mansions” and that the orcas had been enlisted in a “fight against yacht owners”. Michael thinks there is something fundamental about our mentality around big predators. As David puts it: “They came to us, not the other way around.”. “If they start behaving in a way we don’t like, then they’re mean, aggressive and evil,” he says. Males though will wander off, mixing and mating among other pods. So far, the researchers have not worked out which family “the three Gladises” belong to. Victor J Hernandez, author and naturalist, said an … Her boat needed to be towed to safety as a result of the damage sustained in the attack, which included a destroyed rudder. Spain has suspended yachting off its north-west coast after a series of attacks by orcas ramming into sailing boats in the Atlantic. Most have taken place off Spain’s north-west coast, but six vessels were rammed by the mammals in the Straits of Gibraltar and five in Portuguese waters. “These killer whales are always curious around boats, they will approach them,” she tells me. And the game is getting worse and worse.”. In other words, they can be in sync in ways that our own brains are not wired to fathom. In the past six months there have been at least 40 reported incidents involving orcas off the coasts of Spain and Portugal. Some 60 killer whales live in these waters today, that dipped to just 39 back in 2011, a decline that the Spanish conservation organisation CIRCE found was driven by a crash in bluefin tuna stocks. It led the Portuguese coastguard to ban small sailing vessels from a stretch of sea where some of the incidents had been reported. Renaud has seen signs of concerning behaviour whilst out on his own boat. Radioaviso en Rías Bajas por avistamiento de orcas en zona. They don’t just see the world, they hear it, echolocating and building a picture of their world based on a stream of visual and acoustic information that is all processed at the same time. A French sailboat and a Spanish Navy vessel were attacked but escaped without any major damage,” the Spanish Maritime Rescue posted on Twitter. “We make them into caricatures,” she says. One sailor said that the attacks felt orchestrated, while another described it as if a sledgehammer had struck their boat. A video of that incident showed the crew trying to outrun the animals, which appeared to pursue the boat. This website uses cookies. This photo and video line-up showed that three individuals were involved in most of the incidents: juvenile males named in the official orca record as black Gladis, white Gladis and grey Gladis. The duration for both incidents were similar, lasting for … But to say that they are just cruel and calculating or that they are just rambunctious and playful, she adds, does them a disservice. Spain's maritime rescue service uploaded video of fresh attacks Monday, sharing haunting footage of the killer whales toying with yet another victim. Through his conservation research organisation, CIRCE, he carried out work that helped the animals garner their officially protected status. A group of rogue killer whales has been attacking boats off the coast of Spain and Portugal, and it is getting worse and worse, experts said. Humans’ relationship with these orcas though has been on a knife-edge ever since we started fishing for more of that highly prized and highly priced bluefin tuna than appears to have been sustainable. So can any scientist, documentary-maker or sailor understand the mind of such a complex and intelligent marine predator? The black and white orcas, the largest in … There are published accounts of the animals smacking seabirds with their flippers and repeatedly catching and releasing them in their mouths. Read RT Privacy policy to find out more. SAILING has been banned on a stretch of Spain’s northern coastline after killer whales badly battered boats in the area sparking fears for crew's safety. Killer whales have been carrying out revenge attacks on boats in Spain. “If that fractures, you’re really in trouble,” he says. The biological puzzle of why this is happening remains an important one to solve. She and the other researchers worry that these descriptions could be a step in a slippery journey towards persecution of critically endangered orcas. A group of scientists investigating a spate of attacks by orcas on yachts off the coast of Spain in recent months has said their unprecedented behaviour may be a … In several attacks over the last couple of months, orcas have damaged boats and injured sailors. A ROGUE orca pod is carrying out revenge a ttacks on boats following a harpoon strike by poachers, an expert has warned. And, as the bluefin gradually recovered, so did the killer whales. “But these guys, they are playing,” he says of the recent encounters between orcas and boats. The crew moved the boat closer to the coast - back within radio range. Killer whale pods have been attacking boats in Spain and Portugal since July (Credit: Spanish Ministry of Transport, Mobility, and Urban Agenda) Killer whales, or orcas, are the largest members of the oceanic dolphin family. Groups of killer whales have been reported attacking boats off the coasts of Spain and Portugal over the past few months, targeting sailboats from the Strait of Gibraltar in the southern Iberian peninsula to Galicia on Spain's northwestern Atlantic coast. In both cases, crews remarked on the risk of injury in trying to keep control of the wheel. During the summer of 2020, the strangest of summers for so many of us, a group of killer whales off the coast of Spain and Portugal began to act very strangely indeed. “It was really scary for the people, I can understand that,” says Ruth. Pods of orcas have been attacking boats, causing damage. In late July, Morris was crewing a 46-ft delivery boat in Spain when nine orcas surrounded her. The first reported incident was back in July, the most recent at the end of October. Groups of killer whales have been reported attacking boats off the coasts of Spain and Portugal over the past few months, targeting sailboats from the Strait of Gibraltar in the southern Iberian peninsula to Galicia on Spain's northwestern Atlantic coast. In August, a French-flagged vessel radioed the coastguard to say it was “under attack” from killer whales. We see, in some of the videos, the sailing boat turning almost 180 degrees. … “In some cases they can move the whole boat with it. And don’t know why,” he sighs. The pod that “invented” taking bluefin tuna from the fishing lines has increased in number. For millennia they have pursued their favourite prey, bluefin tuna, as the fish migrate along the hundreds of miles of Portuguese and Spanish coast, and through the narrow Strait of Gibraltar, to breed in warmer Mediterranean waters. And they were behaving very strangely. “They always seem to go for the rudder, and I think that’s because it’s a mobile part of the vessel,” Ruth explains. Killer whales have been “attacking” sailing boats off the coasts of Spain and Portugal, in encounters one mariner said felt “totally orchestrated” and another described as “like a sledgehammer”. It quickly became apparent that they were much bigger than dolphins. ActuNautique - Yachting Art Killer whales attack a catamaran off the coast of A Coruna La salvamar Betelgeuse remolca hacia A Coruña al último velero afectado por las acometidas de las orcas , el británico Aliana. “I just didn’t believe it at all at first,” says Dr Ruth Esteban, a softly spoken marine scientist who chooses her words carefully, not keen to speculate about something as multi-faceted and complex as orca behaviour. “We put up the sail, with the idea that if things really went south, we would have another boat to jump onto.”. An orca from the pod believed to be attacking sailboats off the coast of Spain this summer displays scars indicating a harpoon attack, in this shot taken by a whale-watching operation. In July, a sailing vessel had to be towed back to shore after a group of orcas repeatedly hit and damaged its rudder. Killer whales live, hunt and move in very closely connected family pods: tightly knit, matriarch-led groups that - in some populations - have even been shown to have their own pod-specific dialects. “It was continuous,” he says. With their VHF radio out of range, they had to use the satellite phone to contact the coastguard, who advised them to switch off the motor and take down the sails. Velero Urki I informó a las 3.07h que estaba siendo atacado por un grupo de orcas; le rompieron el timón y solicitó remolque. 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The investigation’s conclusions, the official advice for boats about how to avoid these potentially dangerous interactions - even the news stories - hinge on understanding what drives that animals’ behaviour. “But touching them and causing damage? For some two hours, a group of killer whales rammed the underside of the 45ft (13.7m) yacht he was sailing off the coast of Portugal. Lori says humans cannot even be expected to imagine how killer whales experience the world. But there is one conclusion the scientists have confidently drawn from their investigation and from their years of observing these killer whales: they were playing. Although the majority of orcas ignore boats at sea, there are a few in northern Spain that are apparently interested in ramming into them, setting off a string of questions and a bit of apprehension. “After about an hour, we were confident they’d left us.”. “They love it. Ruth says the language used in news stories and social media posts - even by the coastguard - has been adversarial and loaded. The UK’s Sun newspaper reported that a “rogue pod” was attacking boats “in REVENGE”. A killer whale broke the surface at the side of the boat and he says that for 45 minutes, the animals bashed and chewed at the rudder, spinning the boat around. By Peter Janssen September 14, 2020 Orcas, aka killer whales, have attacked several boats off the coasts of Spain and Portugal in the past few months, and marine scientists are trying to figure out why. We call it an interaction.”. “They’re young males, they’re going to be rambunctious,” says Lori. Some populations will only eat fish, preferring one particular type. It is very likely that overfishing was a driver for these culturally conservative killer whales to develop a whole new predatory culture: seeking out lines to take fish from. So orca behaviour that looks like anger, grief or joy is “probably exactly what they’re experiencing”. A sense of curiosity and excitement very quickly turned to fear when one orca disappeared beneath the boat and there was a loud thumping sound from the hull. But for David, the skipper who encountered the killer whales, the word “play” sits uncomfortably with what he felt that evening. En pocas horas han sido 3 las embarcaciones dañadas pic.twitter.com/Brxllh45YU. In September, a man sailing his boat home to Scotland from Spain suddenly had the wheel spun out of his hands. Three orcas rammed a boat off the coast of Spain as it was travelling to Scotland. Subscribe to RT newsletter to get stories the mainstream media won’t tell you, Swim of a lifetime: Woman surrounded by killer whales in epic drone footage, Extremely rare & ‘undescribed’ killer whale spotted in amazing breakthrough (VIDEO), Cutting it close: NASA just detected two asteroids headed towards the Earth… with two more right behind, Gorge-us! But the ongoing conservation crisis does not explain why some of them suddenly started to behave so bizarrely and apparently aggressively around boats. No sound for five minutes, then nothing for 10. “The real truth is not either one of those things. In September, the researchers started gathering evidence. Orcas each have a uniquely shaped pale grey saddle patch behind their dorsal fin, which from the surface serves as a killer whale “fingerprint”. Despite this, some more recent behaviour is causing scientists genuine concern. “Killer whales sighted in the Rias Bajas area. They were ramming the keel, there was this horrible echo, I thought they could capsize the boat,” Morris said. News reports of orcas attacking boats off the coast of Spain emerged at the start of September, with encounters having started as early as July. That’s an important lesson to learn.”, Graphics: Gerry Fletcher, Rafael Fernández/Turmares Tarifa, Additional images: Alamy, The Anatomical Record, David Smith. The boat was 20 miles (32.2km) off Porto, at least three hours from the Portuguese coast. “I’ve seen them hunting,” says Renaud. Ruth now works at the Madeira Whale Museum, but she studied this population of orcas for six years - they were the subject of her PhD. Heavy boat traffic along the Iberian coastline and severe overfishing in the region may have caused additional stress to the animals, which are usually known to be more curious and playful than aggressive during encounters with humans. While Renaud still rejects the idea of vengeful orcas - or even that the killer whales want to damage the boats at all - he cites decades of research when he suggests this could be part of a cultural shift that is actually helping the animals to survive. The force that we experienced, it must have hurt them,” he says. Renaud and Ruth used to work together on orca research; Renaud has been studying this population of killer whales since the 1990s. 9. That crew also reported the animals bit off part of the rudder. She and her colleagues scanned the brain of a deceased captive orca for a study back in 2004. Since July, multiple reports of attacks on sailboats by marauding pods of orca whales have been reported off Spain and Portugal’s shores, with injuries and significant damage reported, and the assaults showing no signs of abating. I just thought people were scared and were misinterpreting what was happening.”. “They were right at the back of the boat.”. “But we don’t want to call it an attack. David’s job, since he “quit the rat race to sail” back in 2013, is to deliver new boats to where their owners want them moored. Accounts of the incidents suggested that the animals were deliberately targeting sailing boats. Orcas then dived under the craft before commencing to bump and spin the yachts. Families generally stick closely together, with long-lived grandmothers helping to raise young and to teach youngsters to hunt. When the killer whales off the Spanish coast are chasing tuna, they can pursue them until the fish are exhausted. The only other encounter he had had with an orca was more than 20 years ago in a Vancouver aquarium, but he was in no doubt that he was looking at a group of killer whales. Ya han sufrido acometida un velero francés y otro de la Armada sin daños mayores #SeguridadNautica (foto no referida al caso) pic.twitter.com/QmHdxAKHKZ. Se solicita a embarcaciones que no intenten aproximarse, den amplio resguardo e informen. In the past six months there have been at least 40 reported incidents involving La emergencia sucedió 4 millas al NW de Cedeira #SeguridadNáuticapic.twitter.com/NbzjlZw0s3, Otro vídeo del ataque de las orcas al Urki I #SeguridadNáuticapic.twitter.com/unWxcr894j. An hour before sunset, one of the crew called out. Last year, a juvenile that he thinks is probably one of the same animals repeatedly chased his small boat with its face pushed up to the propeller of its outboard motor. A group of ‘rogue’ orcas who have been ramming boats off the coasts of Spain and Portugal could be “playing”, according to experts. The animals live, migrate and socialise in closely connected family groups that have developed different hunting techniques and modes of communication. But has our overfishing pushed the younger orcas towards playing with boats? Since summer, the sailors have reported that orcas … Later the same day, a Spanish naval yacht, Mirfak, lost part of its rudder after an encounter with a grouo of orcas under the stern in the Rias Baixas, as it was heading towards Baiona. “The noise was really scary. Have they seen mothers and grandmothers taking tuna from long lines and put their own adolescent spin on that family tradition? Renaud, though, does admit being frustrated and genuinely worried by the orcas’ behaviour. Behind international headlines about “rogue killer whales”, “orchestrated” orca attacks and the videos shared thousands of times on social media, there is a forensic marine science investigation that is still trying to work out what is driving these complex, intelligent and highly social marine mammals to behave in this way. When they reached Gibraltar to carry out a more thorough check for damage, their boat became another piece of evidence in the ongoing investigation. They compared footage of the incidents to a catalogue of images captured and used by CIRCE to identify the animals. “And their ability to process information is orders of magnitude faster than ours,” she says. A spate of attacks on boats by killer whales along the coast of Portugal and Spain have left ocean scientists baffled. Many have tried. Later that same day, a Spanish naval yacht, Mirfak, lost part of its rudder after an encounter with orcas. At one point, one of the larger animals came right to the stern and flipped onto its back – you could see its bright white underside.”. Renaud worries that this could be a tipping point that could bring the animals into direct conflict with the fishermen, who may see their livelihoods as well as their safety on the line. Sailors were reporting orcas ramming their … While orcas were historically hunted and viewed by fishing communities as dangerous pests, the 1960s saw the beginning of what was arguably an equally dangerous fascination with the animals. Baffled scientists are trying to work out why killer whales seem to have declared war on Spanish fishing boats. It was so loud that we had to shout.”. Footage of a pod of whales ‘attacking’ and damaging the Navy yacht went viral and sparked a warning from Spain’s sea rescue service, Salvamento Maritimo. Read about our approach to external linking. Her 46-foot boat was attacked in July, as a pugnacious pod of killer whales spun her boat 180 degrees and disabled the engine, causing it to drift into the Strait of Gibraltar shipping lanes where it had to wait an hour and a half for rescue. “It’s getting worse and worse,” says Dr Renaud de Stephanis, another biologist involved in the investigation. I’ve seen them attacking sperm whales - that’s aggressive. Scientists and those who are used to sailing the Gibraltar Straits are baffled and concerned about recent attacks on boats in the area by pods (or possibly a particular pod) of orca, The Guardian reported. However we describe it, and however human-centric our judgement, this nudging, biting and ramming of boats is new, potentially dangerous behaviour - both for people on boats and for the killer whales. In 2010, international regulators slashed the annual catch that was permitted in the Mediterranean Sea. “I just find it weird. They seemed to be going for the rudder, the wheel would just start spinning really fast every time there was an impact.”. The attack lasted over an hour, and Morris feared she would have to … “Parts of their brains - like the limbic system that you can think of as the emotional processor - they share with us,” she explains. The encounter is one of at least 40 similar incidents in the area. The first reported incident was back in July, the most recent at the end of October. Neuroscientist Lori Marino, president of the Whale Sanctuary Project, is one of the few people to have seen inside the brain of a killer whale. The giant mammals traveled alongside the boat in San Sebastian Credit: Newsflash. Multiple injuries have been reported, as well as significant damage inflicted on sailboats, many of which required rescue and had to be towed to shore for repairs. Se movilizó la LS Langosteira de #CruzRoja que lo remolcó hasta Cedeira pic.twitter.com/2lKKQMOQd5, Os mostramos otro vídeo grabado por el velero Urki I de madrugada. “So then we were just drifting. “They just play, play and play. The scientists published their conclusions about the identity of the culprits, and immediately there were news reports of the “rogue pod” and the marauding “teenagers”. As top predators, aggression, dominance and shows of strength are likely to be key elements of any formative “play”. “I think there were six or seven animals, but it seemed like the juvenile ones - the smaller ones - were most active. Which brings us to a concerning development of orcas attacking boats off the coasts of Spain and Portugal recently. Vessels warned not to approach and report any contact to authorities. The media coverage became stranger - and a little darker - when the scientists also revealed that Gladis white had quite a severe injury on his head: a gash that appeared to have been caused by a boat, possibly by a propeller. The two scientists are now part of a group carrying out an informal investigation into this strange, potentially dangerous behaviour. It just seems to be something they really like and that’s it.”. But there is a bigger reason for Ruth, Renaud and the team to try to adjust the language associated with these incidents. Since July, experts have recorded over thirty attacks on small boats. Life alone in a concrete pool certainly bears little to no resemblance to the natural existence of a wild orca. Conservationists campaigned against orca captivity for decades. Since killer whales learn from each other, the young animals in that pod learned the same trick. By Elian Peltier Sept. 20, 2020 “When they hunt, you don’t hear or see them. “They can weigh 4-5 tonnes and when they play they really play,” says Renaud. “I don’t frighten easily and this was terrifying,” skipper David Smith recalls of a late evening in October when his boat was approached by what looked at first like dolphins. A marine investigation is ongoing into a spate of attacks by rogue Killer Whales on sailboats in the Atlantic. “From what I’m seeing, it’s mainly two of those guys [the Gladises] in particular that are just going crazy,” he says. As the wheel spun back and forth, he thought the animals might be about to dislodge the rudder stock - a steering column through the hull of the boat. The wheel stopped spinning. There are no recorded accounts of an orca in the wild killing a human. Share this story! And for some of the most social animals on Earth, Dr Michael Weiss from the University of Exeter and the Center for Whale Research says, “when they play together, it could be building important social bonds”. Finally, after two hours, as unexpectedly as it started, it all went quiet. Experts who study some of the most intractable human-wildlife conflicts in the world, where people may feel their lives are threatened by the proximity of large predators and that their only option is to kill them, have pointed to the role of “provocative language” in fuelling these situations. Lori thinks we set ourselves up to misunderstand the species entirely by trying to lump their behaviour into simple categories like good or bad, aggressive or playful. Then David noticed the lights of a fishing boat in the distance. “We can’t characterise them in one dimension. Killer whales have been ramming yachts and boats off the coast of Northern Spain and researchers are puzzled by their behavior. Recently, killer whales - assumed to be the Gladises - rammed into two fishing boats off the Portuguese coast. It's not unusual to see killer whales in these Atlantic waters. Others will work together to hunt other, sometimes much larger, whales. “I looked at this animal - and it was jet black and brilliant white.”. All rights reserved. A female orca leaps from the water while breaching in Puget Sound west of Seattle. This specific population of orcas is listed as critically endangered and protected by law. A pod of orcas moving toward a boat in northern Spain Credit: Newsflash. Their survival remains precarious. “There could be an element of play, there could be an element of aggression - of trying to prove themselves.”. Orcas off the coast of Spain and Portugal have been ramming boats in what experts say is … According to The Guardian, over the last two months, several boats have been damaged as a result of attacks by orcas.

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