Orca attacks on boats off the Galician coast have suddenly come to a halt for the first time in months.
Since 2020, there have been hundreds of orca-sailing interactions off Spain and Portugal. Encounters range from orcas simply approaching boats to cetaceans actively interfering with them.
Some interactions were serious. In July, killer whales sank a sailboat with five people on board off Sines, after ramming the boat. Killer whales also attacked a family sailboat twice in August and September. The mammals attacked the boat’s rudder for 30 to 45 minutes, causing it to be pulled ashore.
These interactions have been nearly constant since 2020. But on September 13, the Atlantic Orca Working Group — a collective of scientists that tracks interactions — reported no interactions for 10 days. In a Facebook post, the group said it was “the first time there [were] no interaction in a row for months.”
Alfredo López, an orca expert with the Atlantic Orca Task Force, previously said Pleasemynews that since 2020, while these interactions with boats do not increase, “they do not stop”. Thus, the sudden lull in interactions appeared unusual.
However, interactions were reported again on September 19, the collective said on Facebook. They all took place north of Malpica.
“The killer whales appear to be moving north, the forecast is that they will continue to Cabo Prior,” the Atlantic Killer Whale Task Force posted on Facebook.
It is not known why the interactions suddenly stopped before starting again. Scientists also continue to investigate why killer whales interfere with boats in this way.
Although some attacks were serious, experts do not believe they were a form of assault.
Although also known as “killer whales”, orcas do not attack humans in the wild – the only reported aggressive attacks on humans by these mammals have occurred in captivity.
Lopez once said Pleasemynews that in some incidents, the orcas responsible for the interactions have been seen swimming alongside smaller dolphins. Experts believe that if these killer whales were aggressive, the dolphins would not approach them.
“Since we observe these cases and record what happens in these circumstances, we have verified that the behaviors of the orcas are not aggressive, all their gestures, the way they move and their actions do not show aggression “, Lopez said.
While experts don’t yet know what drives orcas to approach boats, there are several suspicions.
Orcas are socially complex and incredibly intelligent creatures. Scientists have previously observed them displaying playful behavior – in some circumstances this can involve interacting with and chasing boats.