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Orcas sink another boat near Iberia, worrying sailors before summer – Times of India

WorldOrcas sink another boat near Iberia, worrying sailors before summer - Times of India

Summer is on the way, meaning that the orcas are out to play near the Strait of Gibraltar – which is bad news for sailors. Two people were rescued Sunday after an attack by a group of orcas caused enough damage to sink their boat, according to the Spanish maritime rescue service. It was the fifth such sinking in waters off the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa in recent years.
The Alboran Cognac, a sailing yacht about 50 feet long, was approached by the animals Sunday, some 14 miles off Cape Spartel in Morocco, the rescue service said.Crew members onboard reported that the animals had slammed the hull, damaged the rudder and caused a leak. A nearby oil tanker quickly manoeuvered toward the boat and evacuated the two sailors, who were taken to Gibraltar, it said. The boat was left adrift, and Moroccan authorities reported that it eventually sank. It’s the first boat to sink in those waters this year after an orca-related mishap.
A group of orcas that traverses the Strait of Gibraltar and nearby waters has plagued sailors and intrigued marine biologists, who are studying the population. Since 2020, orcas have disrupted dozens of sailing journeys in these high-traffic waters, in some cases slamming vessels hard enough to cause critical damage. In Nov, orcas slammed a yacht’s rudder for 45 minutes, causing its crew to abandon the vessel, which sank near the Tanger Med port.
The group is more likely to appear in the busy lanes around the Gulf of Cadiz and the Strait of Gibraltar between April and Aug, the Spanish govt said in a news release, and sailors have spotted some of the orcas there in recent weeks. Researchers do not know why the pod is targeting boats, but they have theorised that the behaviour is a form of play for the curious apex predators. The interactions have become so frequent that they are now a multinational issue, involving scientists and officials from Spain, Portugal and Morocco. Online, anxious sailors have gathered to share advice on navigating “orca alley”, and biologists are tracking the orcas’ movements and testing methods that could deter them. In the event of an orca encounter, the govt advised in its release, boats should not stop but instead head toward shallower waters near the coast. But the number of incidents may be declining: The number of orca interactions with boats between Jan and May has dropped some 40%, compared with that of similar periods in past 3 years.

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