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The Cruising Village 2021 - LEADERBOARD

Southern Spain, Gulf of Cadiz: Exclusion zone due to Orca interactions

by Daria Blackwell 9 Aug 06:42 UTC
Southern Spain, Gulf of Cadiz Exclusion Zone © Daria Blackwell

An exclusion zone for vessels up to 15 metres (sailing and motor) has been established by the Marina Mercante off the coast of southern Spain due to the increase of orca contacts with small vessels.

Since the end of March, 56 sailing vessels had reported interactions with orcas in the vicinity of Barbate in SW Spain between Cabo de Trafalgar and Punta Paloma, sometimes causing loss of rudders; 25 cases required Maritime Rescue for a tow to port. This stretch of coastline has much yacht traffic with vessels passaging north to Portugal and northern Europe or into the Mediterranean. It is also on the migration route for orcas that feed on tuna in these waters.

Exclusion Zone until 20 August

The Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda (MITMA), through the Maritime Captaincy of Cadiz, under the Directorate General of the Merchant Marine (DGMM), has issued a resolution restricting navigation of sailing vessels 15 meters or less in length between Cape Trafalgar and Barbate, in an extension of approximately 2 and 9 miles from the coast to ensure the maritime safety of sailors and their vessels and to protect marine wildlife.

The exclusion zone area is bounded by the following coordinates (see map):

  • 36-08.0N 006-02.0W
  • 36-02.0N 006-02.2W
  • 36-08.0N 005-55.5W
  • 36-00.0N 005-50.0W
  • 36-03.5N 005-48.0W

Navtex Alert

Inside This Area:

  1. Navigation is not allowed except for entering/leaving harbour/anchorage area using engine only and during the shortest time possible
  2. Anchorage is not allowed in marked areas placed between prohibited area and Spanish Coast.
  3. Tourist activities for sighting whales are not allowed (exceptionally, scientists can obtain permits)
  4. Sailing by sails is not allowed (vessels over 15 meters length have to use the engine)
  5. Follow the recommendations of Salvamento Maritimo Disseminated as coastal warnings.
  6. Report any incident to MRCC Tarifa on VHF 10 /16
Navigation through the exclusion zone is not allowed unless entering or leaving harbour/anchorage and passage through the exclusion zone must be done as quickly as possible under motor only. Only mechanical propulsion should be used within the restricted area and all other vessels are asked to refrain from cetacean watching activities. Anchoring is not allowed in non-marked areas between the exclusion zone and the coast of Spain. Other types of vessels also face limitations as described in the official notice.

Interaction with orcas

If any vessel has an unexpected encounter with orcas, it is recommended to stop the engine, lower the sails, refrain from steering if possible, turn off the depth sounder and prevent people from looking over the sides of the boat. Salvamento Maritimo's current advice is to stay close to shore in shallow waters (1-3 miles offshore) under power rather than sail.

This resolution will initially be in force until the 20th of August, although its extension or cancellation is not ruled out. Report any incident to MRCC Tarifa on VHF Ch. 10/16.

This is the second time that the Directorate General of the Merchant Marine has issued a resolution of this type. The first one took place in September 2020 in the waters off the NW Galician coast and lasted for several weeks.

Noonsite is posting regular updates and members of the Med Sailing Facebook page are sharing ideas, including the formation of convoys.

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

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