A 2022 study has shed light on the reasons why orcas (killer whales) have been attacking boats in the Strait of Gibraltar, with researchers theorising that the incidents began after a vessel injured a female orca named White Gladis.
Since the attacks began in 2020, three boats have been sunk and more than 250 damaged by a group of orcas, with the animals appearing to deliberately target the vessels’ rudders.
Of the 35 killer whales in the region, 15 are reported to have been involved in the highly unusual interactions, which experts think began after White Gladis’ behaviour altered in a ‘defensive’ fashion after she suffered a ‘critical moment of agony’ involving a boat collision or illegal fishing entrapment – leading to other orcas damaging passing vessels in response.
A study published in June 2022 in the journal Marine Mammal Science has found that assaults by the orcas are directed mainly at sailing boats. There is a clear pattern of orcas striking the rudders, with spade rudders the most targeted and damaged type, and then losing interest once the boat has successfully stopped.
Full story: Dive Magazine