Orcas attack, sink sailing yacht in Strait of Gibraltar

In a frightening attack that has become a trend in the past four years, an unknown number of orcas rammed and sank a sailing yacht in Moroccan waters in the Strait of Gibraltar, Spain’s maritime rescue service reported early this week. They said they did not know how many of the apex predators were in on the attack.

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The Alboran Cognac, a 15-meter (49-foot) yacht, was carrying two people when the boat encountered the animals, also known as killer whales, at 9 a.m. local time (7:00 GMT) on Sunday.

The passengers said they felt sudden blows to the hull and rudder as water started seeping into the ship, according to NBC News. After calling for rescue services, the passengers fled to a nearby oil tanker that took them to Gibraltar.

The yacht eventually sank.

The incident was the latest report of orca ramming around the Gibraltar Strait that separates Europe from Africa and off the Atlantic coast of Portugal and northwestern Spain. A research group called GTOA, which tracks populations of the Iberian orca subspecies, said there have been nearly 700 interactions since orca attacks on ships in the area were first reported in May 2020, NBC News reported.

Experts are confused about the probable causes. One theory is that it is a playful manifestation of the animals’ natural curiosity. Others believe it may be a fad among the highly social orcas, or deiberate targeting of what they believe to be competitors for their favorite prey, the bluefin tuna.

Experts believe the attacks involve a subpopulation of about 15 orcas that have been given the designation Gladis, Reuters reported.

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