December 8, 2023

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A pod of killer whales sinks a yacht in the Strait of Gibraltar: NPR

A pod of killer whales sinks a yacht in the Strait of Gibraltar: NPR

A pair of killer whales swim off the west coast of Vancouver Island in 2018.

Brian Gisborne/AP

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Brian Gisborne/AP

A pair of killer whales swim off the west coast of Vancouver Island in 2018.

Brian Gisborne/AP

For 45 minutes, the Grazie Mamma II crew felt like they were being attacked from below. A pod of killer whales focused on the yacht’s steering fin as it made its way through the Strait of Gibraltar last week, and repeatedly collided with it, causing severe damage and a leak, according to the company that runs the boat.

Rescuers were able to rescue the crew and return them safely to the port of Tangier Med on the Moroccan coast. But their ship sank at sea.

“This yacht was the coolest thing in offshore sailing for all of us,” he said in a statement on Facebook Morsky Mile, the Warsaw-based tour company that operated the boat. “Very good memories will be transferred to Grazie Mamma II. Love of the sea always wins and friendships stay with us.”

The company said that it is working to ensure that its upcoming flights to the Canary Islands continue without any obstacles.

Last week’s incident was the latest in a series of recent “attacks” by killer whales in the waters separating southern Europe and northern Africa – encounters that have left researchers scratching their heads.

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Since 2020, there have been about 500 encounters between killer whales and boats, says Alfredo Lopez Fernandez, a co-author of the research. Study 2022 In the magazine marine mammal science, He told NPR earlier this year. At least three boats have sunk, although there is no record of an orca killing a human in the wild.

Scientists are trying to determine the reason for this behavior.

One theory among researchers is that they are just playing. Other researchers say that perhaps whales like the feel of the rudder.

“What we think is that they are asking to put the fan in the face,” Reno De Stefanis, head and coordinator of the CIRCE Conservación Information and Research Center in Spain, said in an interview with NPR last year. When they encounter a sailboat without its engine running, “they feel kind of frustrated and that’s why they break the rudder,” De Stefanis said.

Another theory is that this behavior may be a type of retaliation for previous traumatic encounters with fishing boats.

“I definitely think killer whales are capable of complex emotions like revenge,” said Monica Welland-Shields, the film’s director Orca Behavior Institute he previously told NPR. Shields said she doesn’t think “we can completely rule it out,” even if she’s not entirely convinced herself.

Pods found in other areas, such as near Washington state, have been targeted by humans, but they don’t show a pattern of impact boats, says Deborah Giles, director of science and research at the conservation group Wild Orca.

Which underscores why researchers say it’s difficult to draw any conclusions from the interactions documented so far. in Open letter Published this summer, 30 scientists warned against “projecting narratives onto these animals,” writing that “in the absence of more evidence, people should not assume they understand animals’ motivations.”