Iberian Whales Deliberately Hit Boats in Spain and Portugal

Orcas, also known as killer whales, are majestic creatures that have captured the fascination of humans for centuries. However, recent events off the southwestern tip of Europe have shed light on a concerning behavior exhibited by these magnificent marine mammals. Over 60 incidents of orcas interacting with boats have been reported this year in the region, and scientists believe that the behavior may be linked to a traumatized orca.

Researchers have discovered that a particular whale, named White Gladis, may be the source of this unusual behavior. It is believed that White Gladis experienced a traumatic event, possibly a collision with a boat or entanglement in fishing nets. This trauma has seemingly led her to exhibit aggressive behaviors towards boats, initiating physical contact that can result in damage to vessels and even sinking.

Alfredo Lopez Fernandez, a biologist at the University of Aveiro in Portugal, has co-authored a study on the behavior of these orcas. According to Fernandez, the younger whales are imitating the defensive behavior displayed by White Gladis. He explains that the physical contact between the orcas and boats is rooted in trauma, indicating a defensive response. It is a distressing consequence of an unfortunate event that has been passed on among the pod.

The incidents between orcas and boats have been steadily increasing, with at least 60 reports along the Iberian coast alone this year. In 2020, Portugal’s National Marine Agency issued a statement acknowledging the curious behavior of the orcas and warning sailors to be cautious. The agency suggested that the whales may be attracted to boat rudders and propellers, leading to their proximity to vessels.

One alarming incident that highlights the severity of the situation occurred on May 4th, when three orcas attacked a sailing yacht off the coast of Spain. Although the coastguard managed to rescue all individuals on board, the boat eventually sank as a result of the assault. Such incidents emphasize the urgent need to address this escalating problem.

Understanding the underlying cause of this behavior is crucial for finding effective solutions. Scientists and conservationists are currently working on strategies to mitigate the interactions between orcas and boats. One possible approach involves developing alternative boating techniques or implementing modifications to boat structures to deter orcas from approaching.

It is essential to remember that orcas are highly intelligent creatures that are likely acting out of distress rather than aggression. By addressing the trauma and finding ways to protect both the whales and human activities, we can hope to restore a harmonious coexistence in these waters.

Image by wirestock on Freepik

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