Please select your home edition
Edition
Henri-Lloyd - For the Obsessed

What to do if you encounter orcas off the Iberian Coast

by Daria Blackwell 4 Jul 2021 14:44 UTC

Over the past year, numerous, often violent, interactions between whales and yachts have been reported along the coasts of Spain and Portugal right to the Straits of Gibraltar.

The reports began in the Spring of 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic surged. At first, it seemed like the whales were just playing with the boats. But soon it became evident that something else was going on. Whales in pods were ramming the rudders of yachts, sailboats in particular, and spinning the boats around by 180 degrees. In some cases, they were breaking or biting the rudder blades. The most recent account of an encounter with 20-30 whales was posted by a British crew just this week.

About 60 whales are resident in these waters, up from just 39 in 2011. They feed on tuna, but when the tuna population crashed, so did the orca. When tuna quotas were slashed, both species began to recover. The orca remains an endangered species. It is feared that these reports may cause people to retaliate, which could be devastating for the whales. It's important to note that no humans have been injured in these interactions.

Some of these animals have had previous encounters with vessels and bear scars from their encounters. This has caused speculation about the whales' behaviour. Some sailors even reported that the interactions seemed coordinated and orchestrated. They've recently started interacting with fishing vessels and have learned to 'steal' fish from long lines.

Scientists are now part of a group carrying out an informal investigation into the strange and potentially dangerous behaviour. They think the main culprits are just rambunctious young males playing games that are getting rougher and rougher. They have asked for anyone interacting with these orcas to take photos, particularly of their dorsal fins, so the whales can be identified and tracked.

If you find yourself in an encounter with whales, The Atlantic Orca Working Group has issued a safety profile for such interactions:

  1. Stop the boat.
  2. Contact the authorities.
  3. Take your hands off the wheel.
  4. Do not yell, touch or throw anything at them.
  5. Take photos or video recordings.
  6. After some time, check to see that the rudder moves properly.
  7. If there's a problem, request a tow.
  8. Report the name of the boat, date, time and position.

Please see the image for more details.

In addition, Orca Iberica has a map of interactions. Consider avoiding the areas where the interactions have been reported. If you do experience an encounter, please report it to the Atlantic Orca Working Group via email to .

This article has been provided by the courtesy of Ocean Cruising Club.

Related Articles

Loss of an OCC boat in the Pacific
S/V IdaLina sank earlier this week some 300 miles east of the Marquesas S/V IdaLina, an Arcona 460, sank earlier this week some 300 miles east of the Marquesas. IdaLina was the home of two Swedish OCC Members, Ingmar Ravudd and Katarina Bääth. Posted on 15 Apr
The Ocean Cruising Club announces award winners
For sailing and voyaging excellence, including the OCC Lifetime Award The Ocean Cruising Club has announced the winners of its 2023 awards for sailing and voyaging accomplishments including the OCC Lifetime Award, the Barton Cup and the Seamanship Award. Posted on 14 Feb
Bottled water and clean oceans
In the US, 80% of used bottles go to landfill A personal account of plastic pollution caused by water bottled in single use plastic. Posted on 11 Feb
OCC Challenge Grant awarded to Jenny Decker
The Ocean Cruising Club is pleased to support Jenny Decker's "Just a Lap" circumnavigation The OCC is delighted to announce that a Challenge Grant has been awarded to Jenny Decker - a solo sailor battling a neurodegenerative disease and aiming to circumnavigate while she can. Posted on 8 Feb
Noonsite clarifies new procedures for St Martin
The recent enforcement of Port Clearance has left cruisers unsure of procedures There's been confusion of late in St. Martin as the port authority are now enforcing port clearance and cruisers aren't sure what they have to do. The information on Noonsite has been updated. Posted on 5 Feb
Sailing solo to seven continents
Objective to replicate something he did in his small, single-engine airplane some years ago My objective is to replicate something I did in my small, single-engine airplane some years ago when I flew solo to 7 continents. Posted on 5 Feb
The Novara One Planet initiative
The passage from Agadir in Morocco to Mindelo Bob Shepton and I recently rejoined Novara for the passage from Agadir in Morocco to Mindelo in the Cape Verdes to catch up on the work being done on the "Novara One Planet" project. Posted on 21 Jan
It's official: 2023 was the warmest year
Last year didn't just break the 2016 heat record, it shattered it Marine heatwaves were also recorded around the globe, including in parts of the Mediterranean, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, Indian Ocean, North Pacific, and much of the North Atlantic. Posted on 13 Jan
Pollution and global warming factors
Fueling female-biased sex ratios in sea turtles Pollution and warming temperatures are inducing a sex imbalance among endangered green sea turtles, some populations of which are already 99% female, limiting the gene pool and fertilization rates. Posted on 12 Jan
Global wave power is increasing
Increasing storminess, warmer seas, and rising sea levels are contributing Increasing storminess, warmer seas, and rising sea levels are contributing to an increase in significant wave height and wave energy in many parts of the world. Posted on 4 Jan
North Sails Performance 2023 - FOOTERSelden 2020 - FOOTERStoneways Marine 2021 - FOOTER